Almost 75% of older children in England and Wales with diabetes are not getting key health checks, a study suggests.
Data from 27,682 children and young people showed 25.4% of 12-year-olds have the seven recommended annual health checks, such as eye screenings.
However, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which carried out the audit, says the overall picture is one of improving care.
Charity Diabetes UK said young people must be supported in early life.
The report looked at data from children and young people with diabetes up to the age of 24 who attended paediatric diabetes units in England and Wales between April 2014 and the end of March 2015.
Nearly all had type 1 diabetes requiring daily injections of insulin.
The 2014/15 National Paediatric Diabetes Audit of youngsters in England and Wales found that those achieving “excellent diabetes control” – equivalent to a blood glucose level of less than 7.5% – rose from 15.8% in 2012-13 to 23.5% in 2014-15.
It showed that 23% were now reducing their risk of future complications from the disease.
Guidelines from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) state that all children with diabetes should have their blood sugar levels checked every year and those over the age of 12 should have six other annual health checks.
These include measures of growth, blood pressure, kidney function, cholesterol, as well as an eye screening and a foot examination.
Because young people with type 1 diabetes are at increased risk of kidney disease and blindness, the health checks are important, but too many children are not getting them.
Dr Justin Warner, consultant in paediatric endocrinology and diabetes at the University Hospital of Wales and clinical lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “They form part of a lifetime of screening for complications which, if recognised early, are amenable to interventions that reduce progression.”
But he said the rate of improvement of those achieving “excellent diabetes control” had exceeded that seen in some other European countries.
The report also noted that worryingly high numbers of children over the age of 12 were already showing signs of early complications.
And children and young people living in the most deprived areas were found to have worse blood glucose test results than those living in more affluent areas.
There are two main types of diabetes –
- Type 1 – where the pancreas does not produce any insulin
- Type 2 – where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin – or the body’s cells do not react to insulin
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, but usually appears before the age of 40, particularly in childhood.
About 10% of all diabetes is type 1, but it is the most common type of childhood diabetes, so it is sometimes called juvenile diabetes or early-onset diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is largely caused by poor lifestyle. About 90% of adults with diabetes have type 2, and it tends to develop later in life than type 1.