World Health Day – Chris Askew

That all people in the world can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship; that’s the vision of universal health coverage and the campaigning message behind today’s World Health Day.

When we consider that theme from the perspective of all types of diabetes in the UK we must consider ourselves to be in a fortunate position compared to many parts of the world. The work of Life for a Child, a charity that does hugely important and life-saving work around the world and one Diabetes UK has supported in recent years, highlights the large amount of people who don’t have access to vital care services and insulin supplies like we do in the UK.

The goal of Diabetes UK’s co-founders, HG Wells & RD Lawrence, was universal access for people with diabetes to the same standards of care in the UK. One of the charity’s first campaigns was to provide access to insulin for all, and it’s worth noting that this patient-led campaign preceded the formation of the NHS, which marks its 70th anniversary this year.

Since then, insulin and other life-saving treatments have been available to people with all forms of diabetes and we’ve seen huge progress in helping people live longer and healthier lives. The pace of advancement continues thanks to new technologies and greater awareness of all types of diabetes, and due to the pursuit of evidence-based improvements in care and treatments.

But fresh challenges to our ambition for all people with diabetes to receive the care they need are mounting. Whether it’s from the increasing care needs as a result of people living longer and with more than one condition, or the variation in quality of different services and help people with diabetes receive from the NHS.

So today is a time to reflect on not just how far we’ve come in the 70 years of the NHS in providing universal healthcare, but to consider afresh the curve of change ahead that we need to negotiate. In how care is delivered, whether from the NHS or in our communities. In how we are all supported in managing the conditions we may have. In the role of digital healthcare and in how we invest efficiently, and in the right ways, to stop the development of preventable conditions.

In diabetes specifically, the voice and experiences of those living with diabetes will continue to be the driving force towards ensuring everyone gets the care and support they need. It is for that reason that at Diabetes UK we are looking to our Future of Diabetes report to help dictate our actions in the months and years ahead.

And it’s why the NHS, in its 70th year, must continue to be driven by the experiences of those who are reliant on it, and its principles of universal healthcare. HG Wells was right when he suggested that the notion of a patient organisation built around a specific condition might catch on globally. In his words “The experiment … might not end with diabetics.” This World Health Day reminds us, again, that we all have a voice in challenging healthcare systems, wherever we live, to deliver the care we need, when we need it.


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