A thousand more children suffering from diabetes were reported last year and there remains significant regional disparity between the quality of care given to young sufferers in England and Wales, a report has warned.
The latest National Paediatric Diabetes Audit also revealed a “worryingly high” number of young people aged 12 and over showing signs of potentially serious complications.
Its figures show that 26,867 children and young people aged from 0-25 years cared for in Paediatric Diabetes Units were registered with diabetes in 2013/2014, compared to 25,221 the previous year.
It found that children and young people living in the most deprived areas are likely to fare less well in terms of diabetes control compared to those in more affluent places while white ethnic groups achieve better control of their diabetes compared to other ethnicities, the report published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found.
Current standards state that all children and young people with diabetes over 12 years of age should be given seven key checks each year, but the audit found that just 16% were doing so.
However this represents an increase from 12% in 2012/13 and 7% in 2011/12.
The audit also found that more than a quarter (27%) of young people with Type 1 diabetes have high blood pressure, more than 7% have excess protein in their urine which indicates a high risk of future kidney disease, and more than 14% show early signs of eye disease, putting them at risk of future blindness.
And nearly one in five children aged 0-11 and one in four over the age of 12 with Type 1 diabetes are classed as obese.
More than 95% of cases of diabetes in children are Type 1, but it is not linked to obesity like Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops after the age of 40 and is more common in people who are overweight.
The highest prevalence of diabetes in children and young people was in Wales and the South West while the lowest was in London.
The report also reveals there has been a steady improvement in diabetes control, as measured by HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin), in England and Wales over the last four years.
It found that 18.4% of children and young people had “excellent” diabetes control compared to 15.8% in 2012/13.
Dr Justin Warner, clinical lead for the audit, said: “On the one hand the picture is positive; the quality of care for children and young people with diabetes is improving and we’re getting better at ensuring care processes are met.
“Yet the challenge we face is also growing, with more children being diagnosed with diabetes and some displaying early signs of potentially serious long term health problems.
“This is a lifelong condition where tight overall diabetes control is important to reduce the risk of complications later in life. This requires a close partnership between healthcare professionals delivering care and children and families with diabetes.”
Diabetes UK chief executive Barbara Young said: “We welcome the fact that healthcare for children does seem to be getting better and we recognise that a lot of hard work has gone into making this happen. But the number of children and young people who are not yet getting the care they need is hugely worrying.
“There is an urgent need for the NHS to make the pace of improvement quicker, so that we get to a point where every child with diabetes is getting the care they need to give them the best possible chance of a long and healthy life. They should all be getting their annual checks, but also being offered education to give them the knowledge they need to manage their own condition.”
Sarah Johnson, director of policy and communications at Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “Although we’re pleased to see an increase in the number of children achieving in-range blood glucose control, we’re alarmed by the numbers showing signs of complications at such a young age.
“Improvements in treatment and early interventions to prevent these complications need to be prioritised urgently by the NHS, and healthcare professionals must be given the help and resource they need to help their young patients manage a serious, life-long condition.”