According to a World Diabetes Day announcement from NHS England, thousands of qualifying people living with Type 1 diabetes in the United Kingdom will have covered access to FreeStyle Libre glucose monitor beginning in April 2019. The program intends to make the device available nationwide in the United Kingdom at no cost to those who qualify. The FreeStyle Libre will require a prescription to obtain, and the same funding and criteria will be applied across the board, regardless of location. While the device previously achieved national reimbursement last year, many citizens of the UK have faced continued issues with access as a result of clinical commissioning groups in their local area.
Advocates for universal access to CGM systems have long campaigned for this change, referring to their efforts as the “Fight for Flash.” In the UK, this announcement signals a major step forward in CGM access.
NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens asserted, “Supporting people with modern tools to manage conditions such as Type 1 diabetes is about to become much more widespread… As the NHS prepares to put digital health and technology at the heart of our long-term plan for the future, NHS England is taking important action so that regardless of where you live, if you’re a patient with Type 1 diabetes you can reap the benefits of this life improving technology.”
There has been a great deal of frustration with the “geographic variation” in coverage, and this has only been heightened by certain instances. In July, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was seen sporting FreeStyle Libre during a meeting with President Trump, leading many to believe that they might be missing out on the best available diabetes technology merely because of their coverage status.
The NHS estimates that there are over three million people in England with diabetes, and of these, an estimated 300,000 live with Type 1. Right now,only three to five percent of those with T1D currently have covered access to the FreeStyle Libre system in England. This number will rise exponentially on April 1, 2019 when the CGM becomes insured by the NHS and available by prescription for those who qualify.
Chris Askew, Chief of Executive of Diabetes UK, who were at the forefront of the “Fight for Flash” effort, added, “This decision demonstrates that the NHS is seizing the opportunities presented by new technology, but also that it has listened to the voices of many thousands of people living with and affected by diabetes across the UK. Everyone who has called for fair and equitable access to this technology – through both funding and eligibility criteria – should feel rightly proud that they been heard today.”
The FreeStyle Libre is a continuous glucose monitor that allows for those with diabetes to track blood sugar levels without finger pricks. The system includes a wearable device that sends blood tests to an e-reader or smartphone. The Libre device is covered by Medicare in the United States.
This announcement signals a move by the NHS to harness the power of digital technology to improve treatment and empower patients who are self-managing diseases like Type 1 diabetes.