“This is really critical”: diabetes groups alarmed by fall in patients presenting for check-ups

Diabetes Australia, the Australian Diabetes Society and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners are urging people living with diabetes to have their routine pathology and other check-ups to avoid long-term damage to their health.

Around 1.35 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes. For all types of diabetes, keeping blood glucose levels within a target range helps prevent both short-term and long-term complications. This is ensured with regular pathology tests and follow-up appointments with their health professional.

Professor Greg Johnson, CEO of Diabetes Australia, said: “Regular health checks, like the HbA1c check, are an essential part of ongoing diabetes care.

“It is really important that people don’t stop getting these checks, and that they keep up with other aspects of their diabetes management during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Diabetes doesn’t stop during COVID-19. We are concerned that if people don’t have their pathology checks, or checks for their vision, foot problems, kidney function or other health checks, then serious problems could develop unnoticed. If issues are detected early, then health outcomes are usually much better.”

Dr Sof Andrikopoulos, CEO of the Australian Diabetes Society, said: “We understand that people are going through a difficult time with COVID-19 restrictions, however we want to encourage people with diabetes to stay on top of their condition.

“It is important that pathology tests are done to help health professionals make informed decisions. Health professionals will provide a safe and secure environment for patients to attend their appointments.”

Dr Harry Nespolon, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said: “It’s very concerning that some people have been avoiding important medical appointments. The last thing we want is large numbers of health issues and worsening chronic conditions coming after this pandemic.

“In these difficult times, people still need to take care of their health, keep up any regular appointments and tests, and see their GP for concerns.”

Warren Bingham from the Northern Beaches, NSW, has been living with type 2 diabetes for three years. Speaking of the quarterly HbA1c test that all people living with diabetes should undergo, he said: “When you live with a chronic disease, you shouldn't be without that one piece of vital information.”

Getting his HbA1c blood test has become even more important with the recent lifestyle changes caused by COVID-19 restrictions.

“The drop of physical activity in my lifestyle has led to an increased HbA1c. Changing routine has an important impact if you live with diabetes. So, you still have to get tested, because it tells you if you are in control,” said Mr Bingham.

The pathology sector has seen a 40% drop in routine pathology testing in recent weeks on a national scale, meaning over 60,000 Australians are not getting the tests they need every day.