The innovative ‘hybrid closed loop technology’ continually monitors blood glucose and automatically adjusts the amount of insulin given through a pump.
It can eliminate finger prick tests and prevent life-threatening hypoglycaemic and hyperglycaemia attacks, which can lead to seizures, coma or even death for people living with type 1 diabetes.
NHS experts want to discover whether the tech can help people with diabetes, of all ages, to safely and effectively control their condition, in a real-world setting, in the first nationwide test of its kind in the world.
The NHS has already exceeded some of the goals in the Long Term Plan for delivering better diabetes care, such as ensuring that one fifth of people with type 1 diabetes had access to a flash monitor device, so they can check their glucose levels more easily and regularly.
NHS data shows that three in five people living with type 1 diabetes – around 175,000 – have been given a glucose monitoring device to help control their condition, through the NHS. Just yesterday, new guidance was announced that will see everyone living with type 1 diabetes eligible for a lifechanging flash glucose monitor on the NHS.
The NHS in England currently spends around £10 billion a year on diabetes – around 10% of its entire budget.
Professor Partha Kar, NHS national speciality advisor for diabetes, said: “Having machines monitor and deliver medication for diabetes patients sounds quite sci-fi like, but when you think of it, technology and machines are part and parcel of how we live our lives every day.
“A device picks up your glucose levels, sends the reading across to the delivery system – aka the pump – and then the system kicks in to assess how much insulin is needed.
“It is not very far away from the holy grail of a fully automated system, where people with type 1 diabetes can get on with their lives without worrying about glucose levels or medication”.
Estimations show that only a third of children with type 1 diabetes are currently able to achieve good control of their blood glucose level, which is needed to avoid serious consequences to their long-term health and quality of life.
Figures also show that a five-year-old child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes faces up to 23,000 insulin injections and 52,000 finger prick blood tests by the time they are 18 years old.
As well as the physical benefits, using this system can also help relieve some of the mental burden on people with type 1 diabetes or their carers who otherwise must remain constantly vigilant to blood sugar levels.
The data collected from the pilot, along with other evidence, will be considered by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as part of a technology assessment. NICE will make a recommendation about wider adoption within the NHS following a review of the evidence.