Thousands of people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes will receive wearable tech such as fitness trackers as part of efforts by the NHS to combat the condition.
The scheme will also give people the ability to monitor their levels of exercise, set and monitor goals digitally, as well as access to apps where they can find information and advice from health coaches and online peer support groups.
The NHS said pilot programmes offering people 24/7 access to online advice had significantly boosted the numbers taking up its Diabetes Prevention Programme, which aims to stop people from contracting the disease.
“The success of the pilot’s early findings shows we are breaking new ground to help those most at risk of type 2 diabetes to literally take their health into their own hands at their own time and pace,” said Dr Jennifer Smith, diabetes programme director at Public Health England.
“Many of us use on-the-go digital technology every day and this is a fabulous next step in diabetes prevention.”
Almost seven in 10 people (68%) referred to digital schemes took part compared with about half of those offered face-to-face support, NHS England said.
It added that up to a fifth of places on the prevention programme – around 40,000 a year – would be delivered digitally, with the scheme due to be expanded this month.
Almost four million people in England have type 2 diabetes. One in six hospital beds in the country is occupied by someone with the condition, which leads to more than 9,000 amputations each year. The NHS spends more than £6 billion annually treating the condition and its complications.
The Diabetes Prevention Programme has already helped thousands of people lose a combined 132,000 pounds, with people who completed the programme losing an average of seven-and-a-half pounds. The programme will be doubled so that 200,000 people every year can access it.
Nikki Joule, policy manager at Diabetes UK, said: “With millions of people in the UK at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, it’s vital that the NHS England Diabetes Prevention Programme is able to reach as many people as possible.
“This pilot has shown that a digital version... has the potential to encourage a wider range of people to participate.
“This could be vital in reaching more of the millions of people at risk of Type 2 diabetes, and in helping to reduce the increasing prevalence of the condition.”