- In UK 0.45 deaths from diabetes per 100,000 of the population aged 15-24
- Average death rate in Europe is 0.25 deaths per 100,000 population
- If standards of care same in UK around 17 deaths could be prevented
- Poor care and poverty given as possible reasons for Britain falling behind
Teenagers and young adults are more likely to die from diabetes in the UK compared to elsewhere in Europe, researchers warn.
They are not properly managing the condition with insulin injections and medication – and this may partly be due to poor NHS care.
A study by University College London academics has identified that the UK's death rates for diabetes in the 15 to 24 age group are considerably higher than the European average.
Teenagers and young adults are more likely to die from diabetes in the UK compared to elsewhere in Europe (file picture)
Furthermore, they have increased over the last 15 years even though the standard of overall health care should have improved.
Figures for 2010 – the latest available – show there were 0.45 deaths from diabetes per 100,000 of the population aged 15 to 24.
This is around 37 deaths in this age group every year.
The majority of patients have Type 1 diabetes, the inherited form, as opposed to Type 2 which is usually triggered by obesity
But it is substantially higher than the average death rate in Europe of 0.25 deaths per 100,000 population, and in the USA where it is 0.4 per 100,000.
This means that if the standards of care were the same in the UK as in Europe, around 17 deaths in teenagers and young adults could be prevented annually.
Researchers are also worried that the death rate has worsened since the 1990s when it was just 0.25 per 100,000.
Professor Russell Viner, who led the study, said he was not certain why the UK was falling behind but it was likely due to a combination of reasons including poor care and poverty.
He said: 'This is a significant concern given that we know that diabetes control is poor,' he said.
'This is going that next step and saying that death is rising.'
Around 400,000 adults and children have Type 1 diabetes in the UK and the illness usually develops before the age of 40.
It occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar.
The condition is usually treated with insulin injections but if patients fail to use these regularly they can develop serious complications including blindness, strokes, heart disease and damage to the feet leading to amputations.
Poor care and poverty were given as possible reasons for why the UK was falling behind in diabetes management. Pictured: A blood sugar test (file picture)
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: 'It is worrying that poor diabetes control is leading to deaths in children, however we know that in reality it is only an incredibly small number of children and young people with diabetes, aged under 24, who die.
'However, what is of concern is that only 16% of children and young people with diabetes achieve target in relation to controlling their condition in England and Wales, putting them at increased risk of developing diabetes-related complications later in life.
'Specifically in relation to type 1 diabetes, one in four children are diagnosed too late, at the stage where they collapse and need serious and urgent care in hospital. Raised awareness of the symptoms of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes in children can dramatically reduce this number.
'Improved education, greater access to technology, such as insulin pumps, and better support in schools, can all help to give children with diabetes the best possible chance of living a long and healthy life.'