Labour pledges to give every child with diabetes glucose monitoring technology

8 April 2024, 18:34

Keir Starmer visit to West Midlands
Keir Starmer visit to West Midlands. Picture: PA

Every family will be given a smartphone to monitor blood sugar levels, which prevents children from passing out or having a fit.

Labour has pledged to give every child with type 1 diabetes a smartphone so they can access new glucose monitoring technology.

The phones track blood sugar levels and work in conjunction with an “artificial pancreas” which automatically provides the patient with insulin when their levels are high.

Monitoring children’s glucose levels prevents them from passing out or having a fit.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it is a “travesty” that only those who can afford a smartphone are currently able to access the new technology.

Sir Keir Starmer visit to East Midlands
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting during a visit to Kings Mill Hospital (Jacob King/PA)

In partnership with Virgin Media O2 and the Supporting Children with Diabetes charity, the party aims to ensure every family can benefit from a smartphone which is compatible with the new technology.

Sir Keir told ITV News: “It’s a travesty that hundreds of children with type 1 diabetes can’t afford smartphones to take advantage of new monitors which check and monitor glucose levels.

“This new technological breakthrough should be available to all children who need it, not to those who can afford a device.

“We need an innovative and collaborative approach to tackle this head-on. That’s why my Labour government will work hand in glove with leading businesses to break down the barriers to access.

“Our 10-year plan for change and modernisation of the NHS will bring our analogue service into the digital age.

“We will secure the benefits of the revolution in medical technology for all. This is implementing traditional values in a modern setting.

“That’s what an incoming, mission-led, Labour government will be all about. Under my leadership, a strong partnership between government, business and civil society will make our NHS fit for the future and give all children the best possible start in life.”

Around 32,000 children in the UK are currently living with the condition, but founder and CEO of the charity Supporting Children with Diabetes Carolyn Goldhill said many cannot afford a new smartphone and are forced to finger prick to test levels.

Labour said the NHS will identify children with type 1 diabetes who are not using modern glucose monitors and direct them to the charity so it can provide them with a smartphone.

The announcement comes after Sir Keir and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting visited Kings Mill Hospital Sutton-in-Ashfield in the East Midlands to meet nurses and patients in the maternity ward.

The pair toured the hospital and highlighted the party’s pledge to digitise the red book given to parents for children’s medical records, as part of a series of changes to the NHS app.

Mr Streeting said: “There is a revolution in medical technology taking place before our eyes. Under the Tories, the NHS is failing to secure the advantages of AI and new treatments for its patients, but private healthcare won’t.

“If this continues, the two-tier healthcare system that is emerging in our country today will grow, the gap between public and private widen, and the NHS will become the poor man’s service. That is the future we must avoid.

Diabetes study
Many families cannot afford a new smartphone and are forced to finger prick to test blood sugar levels (Peter Byrne/PA)

“Labour will reform the NHS so it takes full advantage of modern technology to deliver better care for all patients.”

Ms Goodhill said she was “delighted” with the partnership, adding: “Since the NHS began supplying continuous glucose monitors to children with type 1 diabetes nearly two years ago, we have been inundated with requests for phones.

“This technology enables young children to lead normal lives, whist their parents and diabetes nurses check their blood sugar levels remotely to ensure they are safe.

“Many families don’t have the funds to buy a mobile phone that is compatible with the device and, without our charity, parents would be forced to revert to constant finger pricking to test blood sugar levels, and would not be able to be separated from their child.

“This partnership will allow us to continue supplying phones to support children from deprived backgrounds, so they can benefit from the latest tech on the NHS.”

Corporate Affairs director of Virgin Media O2 Nicola Green said: “As someone with type 1 diabetes, I have firsthand experience of how smartphone technology can help manage the condition.

“The recycled devices that Virgin Media O2 is donating to Supporting Children with Diabetes will reduce the hassle and stress for those families affected by Diabetes, making it faster and easy to monitor blood glucose levels.”

By Press Association

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