The Freestyle Libre blood sugar monitoring system has been out for about a year now. It consists of a sensor that you put in your upper arm and a reader, a bit like a mobile phone, that tells you the blood sugar, whether the trend is rising or falling, and what your blood sugar pattern has been like over the last eight hours.
I haven’t met anyone who has tried it who didn’t prefer it to finger pricks. About the only situation that it is no good for is driving. You need to have proof of your blood sugar on a regular meter should your ability to drive while under the influence of injected insulin comes under scrutiny.
The NHS is a big organisation and no doubt funding for this will vary from area to area, but in Scotland at least, there is no prospect of my son getting one on the NHS.
The main people who will be able to get the device are pregnant women and those women who are planning a pregnancy. Since these women ideally have to get their Hbaic down to 6% or under to ensure a healthy baby, then you can see why they have the greatest need. You are looking at two patients in one and complications that can affect a child lifelong.
The other groups that are eligible are those with very frequent admissions for diabetic ketoacidosis or severe hypoglycaemia. By this is meant three times in a single year. Both these complications of diabetes can result in sudden death or brain damage and often in young people.
Those people whose HbA1cs are over 8.5% or who test their blood sugars more than six times a day will also be considered. Since most people attending hospital diabetic clinics will have blood sugars over this threshold it is a big group. Perhaps diabetic athletes will also be considered.
The group that won’t be given the device and sensors on the NHS are the ones who are already making great efforts to reduce complications by eating low carb diets, exercising consistently and monitoring frequently. Using the Freestyle libre should help this group adjust their insulin and food more finely, in particular avoiding hypos, since their blood sugars are wiggling around normal much of the time anyway. As they are already at much lower risk for complications they are saving the NHS a great deal of money just by being so committed to their task, yet something that would make the job easier is denied them because they are not “bad enough”.
So, I’ve just bought my son one. So far he is thrilled with it. The sensors are £45 (VAT exempt) a fortnight and the initial outlay is £137 (VAT exempt) including two sensors.
There are two great advantages as far as I’m concerned. Peace of mind. And Christmas and Birthday presents for the foreseeable future are sorted.