UK Survey Finds Many Denied Test Strips

46% of all respondents report problems with getting test strips in the last year.



A new UK survey finds that people with diabetes are being unfairly denied access to blood glucose test strips. The survey, conducted by the advocacy group Diabetes UK , confirms earlier survey reports that show widespread restrictions on test strip access within the country’s national health system.

The new survey polled 1300 people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 46 percent of those surveyed said their prescriptions for test strips were refused or restricted in the last 12 months. Some 4 in 10 of those who answered that they were denied test strips had Type 1 diabetes or cared for someone with Type 1 diabetes.

In an earlier Diabetes UK survey, some 39% of respondents reported having experienced test strip restrictions. Nearly half (47%) of those denied test strips had Type 1 diabetes or were caring for someone with Type 1 diabetes. In that survey, some respondents with Type 1 diabetes were accused by health care officials of testing too much or told, erroneously, that more testing didn’t make a difference in blood glucose control. Other reasons given for the restrictions included cost-savings or changes in health plan policy. 19% of respondents were given no reason at all for a denial or restriction.

The United Kingdom has a single-payer health system administered by the National Health Service (NHS). NHS officials have long tried to inform general practitioners that it is essential for people with Type 1 diabetes to have access to test strips, but the message does not always filter through to the local health care administrative entities, according to Diabetes UK. In a 2005 study, researchers found that 27 percent of the regional health care trust agencies had policies in place restricting access to test strips for people with diabetes.

Diabetes UK Chief Executive Barbara Young warns that recent pressure to contain healthcare costs is causing more physicians to restrict test strip prescriptions. The organization has reported a surge in calls to its help line from people who have been denied test strips.

“None of us would drive a car that didn’t have a speedometer, so it is appalling that people with diabetes are being asked to manage their blood glucose level at the same time as being denied the basic tools to do this safely,” Young said in a written statement.

People with diabetes in the UK aren’t the only ones who must grapple with test strip restrictions. In the last two years, diabetes communities in Ontario and Oregon also have protested changes in health care policy that restrict test strips.

There are steps one can take if denied a prescription for test strips, according to Diabetes UK. First, speak directly with the primary care provider or general practitioner about the denial or restriction. If the physician says he or she is upholding policy, ask the physician to reference and share the specific policy. Ask if the restriction was made in regards to the individual case or was part of a blanket policy for all people with diabetes. If you can’t make headway with the physician, the next step is to appeal to health care administrators.

To learn more about Diabetes UK, go to diabetes.org.uk.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.