Changing Blood Glucose Meters
EDP column by Dr Ketan Dhatariya

“My surgery has recently changed my blood glucose meter. Why was this when I was happy with my old one?”

The honest answer is cost. In England between 2005 and 2011, the number of people with diabetes rose from 3.6% to 4.3% of the population. At the same time, there was a very large increase in the costs of the medicines used to treat diabetes. These changes meant that diabetes now accounts for a very large proportion of the NHS budget. In these times where saving money is an important consideration, many small changes help achieve this.

In Norfolk, the cost of the strips needed to test blood sugars is more than the costs of the medicines need to treat the condition. There are many people who do not need to test their blood sugars at all – for example, those on diet only for their diabetes. On the other hand, there are those people for whom testing is necessary – for example, those on insulin and those who are on medication (tablets or insulin) that can cause low blood sugars when driving. The DVLA rules state that in those circumstances, there must be evidence of regular blood glucose testing at times relevant to driving (that is, every time you drive a car) in order to make sure that the DVLA renews your driving license. Please contact the DVLA for clarification or visit for more information

You can see that for lots of people blood testing is important, but if some savings can be made by using a less costly meter (and strips) then that helps everyone. However, this is not a ‘wholesale’ move towards the cheaper machines and strips. For example, some people will only test if they have a machine with specific features on it, or in a certain colour; others will only test if the machine fits in their handbag or the pocket of their boiler suit at work. It is important to test, and if, by having a meter that fits your needs you are more likely to test, then the more expensive machine and strips is a small price to pay for the problems that may arise by not testing.

NHS Norfolk has set a target that about 25% of all of the testing machines in the county are changed to the less expensive variety. That still means that people who test can still have a different meter if they need one, even if the strips are more expensive.

If you have been given a new meter, it is important that your GP practice or pharmacy spend some time with you teaching you how to use it – again, there is no point in giving you a piece of medical equipment if you are not shown how to use it.

If in doubt, or if you have a reason why you need a different meter, talk to your GP or pharmacist to see if you can change it back again.