Diabetes prevention services at the touch of a button

Date posted: 15th December 2017

NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK have teamed up with leading providers from the tech sector as the battle against Type 2 diabetes goes digital – with around 5,000 people expected to benefit from the launch of a new pilot project, including some from here in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Lancashire and South Cumbria is one of eight pilot areas that has been selected to test drive a range of innovative digital products, apps, gadgets and other online tools, starting this month.

Heathier You: The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme was officially launched last year to support people who are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Those referred on to the face-to-face programme get tailored, personalised help, this includes; education on lifestyle choices, advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating and bespoke physical activity programmes, which together have been proven to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The new pilot offers similar support, assistance and guidance but through the use of digital interventions, including apps, which allow users to access health coaches, online peer support groups and to set and monitor goals electronically. Some patients will also receive wearable technology to help them monitor activity levels and receive motivational messages and prompts.

People accessing the new pilot service in Lancashire and South Cumbria will use an app to complete an online self-assessment before receiving a call from a health advisor to develop a tailored action plan. They can then access to their own personal lifestyle log via the app and monitor their progress as a result of lifestyle changes. They will also have access to supporting resources via the app, as well as the ability to contact health advisors directly.

Throughout the nine month programme, as well as having access to the app, people will also receive a number of phone calls from a health advisor to support them. It is anticipated around 250 people in Lancashire and South Cumbria will take part in the pilot.

Dr Amanda Thornton, Digital Health Clinical Lead for Lancashire and South Cumbria said: “There is emerging research demonstrating remote or virtual delivery of lifestyle change conversations can be as effective as face-to-face with your GP or other healthcare provider. This national pilot project aims to rigorously test digital as an alternative to clinic based diabetes programmes with a view to making this option available to all.

“It will help us to clearly understand the added value of phone apps, wearable technology or online services for people wanting to make positive changes to their health. With today’s busy lifestyles many of us bank or shop online, this programme will take us a step further in understanding how to also help people manage their health online.”

Paul Watson, Vice President for Healthcare, Hitachi Consulting EMEA said: “Type-2 diabetes is a global societal issue, affecting millions of people and presenting major challenges for healthcare systems, including the NHS.

“Empowering people at risk through digitally-enabled and personalised support to help them make sustainable lifestyle changes is critical to addressing this problem. Combining digital innovation with established clinical practice enables us to re-imagine the delivery of care, providing increased access to services, whilst also maintaining quality and cost-effectiveness. Hitachi is extremely proud to be supporting the national pilot through with our Smart Digital Diabetes Prevention solution, which was co-created with Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and the Salford Care Call team.”

Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England said “So much else in our lives is now about online social connection and support, and that now needs to be true too for the modern NHS. This new programme is the latest example of how the NHS is now getting practical and getting serious about new ways of supporting people stay healthy.”

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director for Obesity and Diabetes said: “Tackling obesity and the rising prevalence of Type 2 diabetes are the major public health challenges of our time. By April next year we will be providing the diabetes prevention programme to the whole of England – an evidence-based face-to-face programme that prevents or delays onset of Type 2 diabetes in those at high risk. Through this initiative, we have the potential to establish the effectiveness of digital interventions to do the same, so that the reach of the programme will be even greater.”

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive at Public Health England said: “This breaks new ground to help those at risk of Type 2 diabetes quite literally take their health into their own hands. Many of us use on-the-go digital technology every day and this is a logical next step in diabetes prevention.”


On the current trajectory, four million people will be living with diabetes in England by 2025. Diabetes can cause serious complications and early death, and already accounts for 10% of the annual NHS spend.

Around 90% of all diabetes cases are related to Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and is preventable.

The diabetes prevention programme which is run collaboratively by NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK, was officially launched last year with 27 areas covering 26 million people – almost half of the country and in June, 13 new areas of the country went live as part of Wave 2 of the programme.

The ambition is for the programme to eventually cover the whole of the country and figures could rise to as many as 200,000 referrals of people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes and more than 80,000 people on programmes by 2018/19. The testing of alternative digital interventions will establish their effectiveness, providing an evidence base for upscaling the digital programme in future and offering further choice to the support people receive.

The eight areas have identified practices who are interested in taking part in the pilot. These practices will either issue a letter to their known at-risk patients inviting them to access the digital intervention or make an offer.

Local health economy and provider:

  • North East London STP Liva
  • Somerset STP Buddi Nujjer and Oviva
  • Humber and Vale of York STPLiva and OurPath
  • Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire STP OurPath
  • Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire STP Oviva
  • Lancashire and South Cumbria STP Hitachi

More than 5,000 people are expected to benefit from the launch of the pilot project across the eight sites.

RSM have been appointed by the programme to support implementation and undertake an evaluation of the interventions.

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