New transplant hope for diabetes patients launched in UK


London: A revolutionary new treatment will offer new hope for a group of people with Type 1 diabetes, the UK’s Health Minister Ann Keen announced today.

From 1 April 2008, a specialised service at six centres across the UK will allow selected people with Type 1 diabetes to live free from the risk of blackouts and hospital admissions associated with hypoglycaemia.

The Department of Health will invest up to £2.34 million in islet transplant services in the first year, increasing to a maximum of
£7.32 million to meet the predicted annual need in the longer term.

People receiving the treatment will be injected with insulin producing islets, taken from a donated pancreas. Each of them will have suffered from recurrent hypoglycaemia or have had a kidney transplant.

Health Minister Ann Keen said: “In developing islet transplants for people who suffer from hypoglycaemia, the NHS is at the forefront of worldwide clinical innovation. This programme will ensure that people who have been unable to treat hypoglycaemia with conventional therapies will benefit from significant improvements to their quality of life”.

“These patients are dependent on organ donors for pancreases from which islet cells are transplanted. To ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from this groundbreaking therapy, I am committed to improving donor coordination services as recommended in the recent ‘Organs for Transplants’ report.”

Islet transplants have previously been offered to twelve patients in England under funding from charities, principally Diabetes UK.

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said:

“We are delighted that Diabetes UK-funded research has proved to the Government what huge immediate and long-term potential islet cell transplantation has. The Department of Health’s decision to fund this programme will be life changing for some people with Type 1 diabetes who suffer from the most serious effects of hypoglycaemia. Resolving the worst cases could save the NHS a significant amount of money, as hypoglycaemic attacks cost #15m a year in hospitalisations and ambulances alone.”

In the first year, it is expected that around 20 transplants will take place at the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, London, Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, North Bristol NHS Trust and Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s NHS Trust. The service will then expand to meet the predicted annual need of approximately 80 transplants in subsequent years.

Islet transplantation is a suitable alternative to whole organ pancreas transplant as it is less invasive and can be considered for patients with cardiac disease who would be unfit for open surgery.

More about diabetes:

1. Hypoglycaemia is the medical term for low blood glucose.

2. Diabetes is a long-term condition where the body is unable to control the amount of glucose in the blood. Type 1 diabetes develops when the body cannot produce the natural hormone insulin.

3. The National Commissioning Group (NCG) considers applications from providers of very highly specialised services for national designation and central funding and where appropriate make recommendations to the Secretary of State. Currently NCG nationally designates 38 very highly specialised service at over 50 NHS Trusts and funds 37 of these services. In 2007/08 the NCG programme budget is #346m per annum.

4. The six centres in England receiving national designation and funding from NCG are: Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust; Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust; Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust; North Bristol NHS Trust andCentral Manchester and Manchester Children’s NHS Trust.

An integrated hub-and-spoke programme will be established whereby islets will be prepared in the specialised central clinical laboratories in London and Oxford for distribution to the six regional transplant centres.

5. The diabetes National Service Framework (NSF) was launched on January 9th 2003. The NSF is a ten year plan for provision of services nationally to help people to manage their own diabetes and help to prevent them from developing the complications of the disease. Following the diabetes NSF people with diabetes will receive better care, more support and services. The diabetes NSF is available on the Department of Health and can be ordered from:
Department of Health Publications, PO Box 777, London, SE1 6XH, fax
01623 724 524 email

6. A guide for people with diabetes, ‘Diabetes Care – Your future health and wellbeing’ is available from Department of Health Publications, PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH, tel: 08701 555 455, fax:
01623 724 524, email:
– quote 29335 and the title.

7. Residents of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be treated in English centres. The National Services Division in Scotland (equivalent of the English NCG) will be considering a transplant centre in Edinburgh to start in April 2009.

8. Current and Future Research on Diabetes: a Review for the Department of Health and the Medical Research Council is available on the Department of Health website