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Tens of thousands of children and adults living with type 1 diabetes across England are set to receive an ‘artificial pancreas’ in a world-first initiative being rolled out by the NHS.

What is a Hybrid Closed Loop System (also referred to as an Artificial Pancreas)?

Some people with type 1 diabetes use an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor that ‘talk to each other’. It does this through a computer programme on your phone or inside the pump.

This is called a closed loop system. It is sometimes known as an artificial pancreas. It can do some of the work for you to help manage your blood sugar levels (apart from you tapping in the carbs from the food you eat). 

When you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas can’t make and release insulin like it should. By releasing insulin whenever your body needs it, a closed loop system works like a pancreas. So a closed loop system is sometimes called an artificial pancreas or an artificial pancreas system.

This can also help prevent life-threatening hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) attacks, which can lead to seizures, coma or even death for people living with type 1 diabetes.

There are currently around 269,000 people living in England with type 1 diabetes. From 1 April 2024 Local NHS systems will start identifying eligible people living with type 1 diabetes who health chiefs believe could benefit from the Hybrid Closed Loop system. 

NHS England has provided local health systems with £2.5 million so they are ready to start identifying patients that can benefit.

Dr Clare Hambling, National Clinical Director for diabetes said:

“This is another example of the NHS leading the way in healthcare, rolling out these groundbreaking devices across England over the next 5 years.

“This transformative technology holds the power to redefine the lives of those with type 1 diabetes, promising a better quality of life as well as clinical outcomes.

Type 1 diabetes is an easily missed diagnosis so if you are concerned about symptoms – the 4Ts – going to the Toilet, passing urine more frequently, with Thirst, feeling Tired and getting Thinner (losing weight), please come forward for support.”

Professor Partha Kar, NHS national speciality advisor for diabetes, said:  The national roll out of Hybrid Closed Loop systems is great news for everyone with type 1 diabetes.

“The device detects your glucose levels, transmits the readings to the delivery system, known as the pump, which then initiates the process of determining the required insulin dosage.

“This futuristic technology not only improves medical care but also enhances the quality of life for those affected”.

The National Institute of Health Care and Excellence (NICE) approved the NHS’s roll-out of the technology in December 2023.

Since the NICE announcement, NHS England has published a 5-year implementation strategy, which sets out a timeline for how local systems will provide the Hybrid Closed Loop system for eligible patients from 1 April 2024.

Who is eligible?

NICE recommends the devices should be rolled out to:

  • children and young people under 18 with type 1 diabetes
  • pregnant women with type 1 diabetes
  • adults with type 1 diabetes who have an HbA1c of 58 mmol/mol (7.5%) or higher.

This guide by Diabetes UK provides more information on what a closed loop system is.