A Midland GP fears as many as 60,000 diabetics remain undiagnosed in Britain after a survey of patient records revealed raised glucose levels were being ignored, it was revealed today.
Dr Tim Holt, a lecturer at Warwick University's medical school, made the discovery after conducting a pilot at his own Warwick-shire practice, where he identified six patients who required further tests - and were subsequently diagnosed with diabetes.
He led a nationwide survey of more than 3.6 million electronic patient records held by 480 GP surgeries across the UK which found 3,758 cases where their blood sugar results were "indicative of undiagnosed diabetes".
Researchers also discovered that 32,785 patients were at a significant risk of diabetes, as their last blood test showed their glucose level was "at best borderline".
The results of the survey - also conducted by experts at Nottingham University, Egton Medical Information Systems in Leeds, and Imperial College in London - are published in the March issue of the British Journal of General Practice.
Dr Holt said: "The search was originally piloted in my own practice in Warwickshire, and six individuals were found, most of whom were diagnosed with diabetes on further testing.
"The majority of practices sampled in the research project included such patients.
"If the same survey was extended to all UK GP surgeries, we estimate that 60,000 people would be identified with evidence of undiagnosed diabetes.
"In addition, more than half a million people nationally would require further tests to rule out diabetes.
"The study demonstrates the power of information technology to assist practice teams in the early detection of diabetes."
One of the patients identified by Dr Holt as being unaware he had the disease was Peter Alexander, a business sales manager from Warwickshire.
He said: "I wish that this system had been introduced nationwide much earlier.
"For everyone it is important to have their health checked regularly, and using this software a lot of people with undiagnosed diabetes may be identified immediately."
Researchers surveyed 3,630,296 electronic patient records from surgeries which contribute anonymised electronic health record data to the QRESEARCH database in Nottingham for research purposes.
They looked for biochemical evidence of undiagnosed diabetes recorded in blood glucose measurements after they eliminated known diabetics and cases where follow-up tests had confirmed diabetes.
As a result of this study, software has been installed into most GP practices to help staff identify possible cases during routine care.