Scots NHS chiefs slammed over insulin pump lottery

Michael Matheson criticised the 'disappointing' uptake of insulin pumps by some health boards. Picture: Jane Barlow
Michael Matheson criticised the 'disappointing' uptake of insulin pumps by some health boards. Picture: Jane Barlow
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NHS CHIEFS have come under fire over a “lack of leadership” in getting more diabetics using life-changing treatment devices and warned that the situation must improve.

Public health minister Michael Matheson said he understands why sufferers must feel there is a “postcode lottery” across Scotland in securing access to insulin pumps which avoid the need for daily injections.

Ministers have made a commitment to supply a quarter of under-18s who have diabetes with an insulin pump, but some health boards have yet to provide them. Last week the Government paid £3 million for hundreds of pumps amid a “disappointing” uptake by health boards.

Mr Matheson told Holyrood’s public petitions committee yesterday: “Those few boards which made very limited progress have been left in no doubt on several occasions about the dissatisfaction with with the lack of progress.

“I’m particularly disappointed at the lack of leadership being shown by chairs and chief executives in these particular health boards.”

Since 2009 the total number of people on insulin pumps has more than doubled, along with the number of people starting insulin-pump therapy each year, but progress has been patchy across the country.

The “greatest concern” was NHS Highland, Mr Matheson said, which had been offered “repeated advice and information”, but had not shown enough ambition at an early stage.

But the situation has been addressed and progress is now being made, he added.

The ambitious targets in improving the uptake of the pumps is aimed at kick-starting a “cultural change” which will create a “world class diabetes service” in Scotland.

But Tory Deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said the Government was “repeatedly” having to intervene in the issue because of failures on the part of health boards.

“These health boards management teams and chief executive officers - they’re paid a relative fortune,” he said.

“They’re not underpaid, they’re supposed to be top class management capable of executing a brief and implementing a policy.”

He said the insulin initiative was a “relatively straightforward and simple introduction of a policy - it’s not discovering a cure for a new disease.”