Advertisement

Landmark diabetes treatment could be offered in NI

Thousands of people with type 1 diabetes in Northern Ireland could be offered new technology, dubbed an artificial pancreas, to help manage the condition.

The system uses a glucose sensor under the skin to automatically calculate how much insulin is delivered via a pump.

People in England and Wales with diabetes are to be offered the breakthrough treatment over the coming years.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland confirmed on Wednesday it was considering introducing the treatment.

The technology automates the release of insulin into the bloodstream
The technology automates the release of insulin into the bloodstream [Getty Images]

However, a spokesperson said "significant additional funding" would be needed for the technology to be made available in Northern Ireland.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that prevents the pancreas from making insulin.

It requires daily management with insulin injections and blood sugar monitoring.

Edelle Irwin's son, Shane, 17, is one of the thousands of people in Northern Ireland who has type 1 diabetes.

She told BBC Radio Foyle's North West Today programme the technology could help people like Shane live full lives and to be in control of their diabetes.

"Shane still uses insulin injections every day to help him manage his condition but it affects his life every day," Ms Irwin said.

"My son has had a hypo attack in the past when he lost consciousness. As a parent, that was very frightening.

"He cannot produce insulin himself any more so if he cannot get insulin he will die.

"We have a government here now. We really need to push for this new technology to be offered to people here in Northern Ireland."

The NHS in England is expected to start contacting adults and children who could benefit from the system later in April.

But officials have warned it could take five years before everyone eligible has the opportunity to have one.

They have cited sourcing enough devices and training staff in how to use them among the challenges.

In trials, the technology - known as a hybrid closed loop system - improved quality of life and reduced the risk of long-term health complications.

And at the end of last year, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said the NHS should start using it.