CALLS have been made for an overhaul of diabetes treatment in Bolton as figures reveal that the number of people with the disease is expected to increase by 5,000 over the next eight years.

A leading GP has claimed there is a "dangerous gap" in diabetes services, which is giving some patients poor standards of care.

Dr Stephen Liversedge, chairman of Bolton's Professional Executive Committee, has joined with diabetes specialist consultant Dr John Dean in calling for a review of diabetes services.

He said: "Three per cent of Bolton people have diabetes, which is 8,000 people. More importantly, this figure will rise to 13,000 by 2010. Tight controls of blood sugar levels are needed. Tight control is not happening in Bolton and this is why we have to change."

Dr Liversedge said diabetics should be enjoying a quality and length of life approaching that of people without the disease. He added: "This is embarrassing because it is not happening."

Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism in which sugars in the body fail to produce energy. Long term complications include thickening of the arteries, leading to heart and eye problems.

Following Dr Liversedge's criticism, health chiefs at Bolton Primary Care Trust have proposed that family doctors should take a more direct role, instead of refering patients to the Royal Bolton Hospital or the Bolton Diabetes Centre.

Specialist centres could be set up, with GPs getting extra funding to train in diabetes care.

It would mean the hospital-run Bolton Diabetes Centre will no longer be managed by the Royal Bolton Hospital and would be more involved with the community.

Cllr Cliff Morris, a non executive director of the Trust, was concerned that the centre, described as "a place of excellence" would be lost.

Bolton has 90 children under 16 who suffer from type 1 diabetes , which is not related to diet or obesity, and who are insulin-dependent.

However, there are fears that children could soon start suffering from the more common form, type 2 diabetes, which is preventable through diet and exercise.

A team consisting of health professionals, patients and members of the ethnic minority communities will be set up to carry out the plan.

Dr Dean said that, in time, more specialist diabetes centres could be established in Bolton, but gave assurances that the Bolton Diabetes Centre would cease to exist.