As the first ever national 'Hypo Awareness Week' is staged by NHS Diabetes from Monday 13th to Sunday 19th August, a recent online study in the journal Diabetic Medicine1 has estimated the annual cost of emergency calls for severe hypoglycaemia at £13.6 million in England, with the average cost per emergency call at £263.

The one-year retrospective observational study looked at data over a 12 month period. A key finding was that the annual rate of severe hypoglycaemia attended by the emergency services is high in younger age groups (7.5% for those aged 15 to 35 years) and lower for older age groups (1.9% for those aged 65 years and above).

However, the absolute numbers of severe events in older age groups contribute substantially to the overall costs of providing emergency assistance for hypoglycaemia. It is estimated that every time someone is admitted to hospital because of hypoglycaemia, it costs the NHS about £10002. Professor Andrew Farmer from Oxford University says, "The findings of this research highlight the key role played by the emergency services with respect to hypos and the cost burden to health services of them doing this important work."

The costs to the health system of severe hypoglycaemia episodes are a significant financial burden, and are higher for patients with Type 2 diabetes than Type 1 patients using insulin. For example, the average treatment cost per severe hypoglycaemia episode for Type 2 diabetes patients in the UK is £365 (€537) and in Type 1 diabetes patients £160 (€236)3. Recent data from the Impact Diabetes report4 cited the cost of diabetes arising from complications such as moderate hypoglycaemia at almost £41.8 million (£19.2 million for Type 1 diabetes and £22.6 million for Type 2 diabetes); likewise the cost of severe hypoglycaemia was estimated at £30.3 million (£13.9 million for Type 1 diabetes and £16.4 million for Type 2 diabetes).

When it comes to public health, diabetes is amongst the most common chronic illnesses in the UK. In terms of economic importance, its impact is significant, accounting for £9.8 billion or 10% of total NHS resource expenditure4. Dr Andrew Hockey, Medical Director, Sanofi Diabetes, says: "Hypoglycaemia is one of the complications that arises from having diabetes.

It can be very serious and is a worry for many people with diabetes and their families. Its prevalence is high amongst those with diabetes. It is important to raise awareness of the importance of treating hypoglycaemia and its symptoms. Sanofi Diabetes fully supports Hypo Awareness Week and indeed all educational campaigns that raise awareness of diabetes, its complications and the need to deliver innovative, integrated and personalised solutions."

About Hypo Awareness Week

NHS Diabetes will stage its first ever national 'Hypo Awareness Week' from Monday, 13th to Sunday, 19th August. The week aims to raise awareness of this common complication of diabetes and in turn reduce incidence in secondary care.

About the Study - Incidence and costs of severe hypoglycaemia requiring attendance by the emergency medical services in South Central England

The study was funded by an unrestricted educational grant from Sanofi UK paid through Brockbank Plaut Consulting Ltd. Professor Andrew Farmer, the study's Principal Investigator (PI), is supported by the National Institutes for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Consortium.

About Impact Diabetes Report

The Impact Diabetes Report has been developed in partnership with Diabetes UK, JDRF and Sanofi Diabetes, and is funded by Sanofi.

About diabetes

Diabetes is a common life-long health condition where the amount of glucose in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. This is because the pancreas does not produce any insulin, or not enough, to help glucose enter the body's cells - or the insulin that is produced does not work properly (known as insulin resistance)5.

About hypoglycaemia

Hypoglycaemia, or hypo, is the medical term for low blood glucose levels - that is a blood glucose level of less than 4 mmol/l. This is too low to provide enough energy for your body's activities. Hypos can happen when you are treated with insulin or some diabetes tablets6.