Senator loses six stone to control diabetes and avoid taking tablets

Ray Butler calls for Government to introduce free blood test to save State money long-term

A Government Senator has spoken of how he lost more than six stone in weight to deal with his diabetes and avoid having to take nine tablets a day for the rest of his life.

Meath-based Fine Gael Senator Ray Butler highlighted his own case as he called on the Government to provide free blood tests for people to check for the condition, which he said in the long-term would result in savings for the State.

Mr Butler said many people would not have the funds to pay for the test which he estimated at €130.

“When you got to a doctor your first appointment is €60. Then to get the blood test is another €25 and when you go back to the GP it’s another €45. So all this adds up to €130 and a lot of people just don’t have the money.”


Mr Butler appealed in the Seanad for Minister for Health Simon Harris to make a free blood test available, following publication of the HSE report last week on type 2 diabetes.

The Fine Gael Senator said the report stated that 200,000 people in Ireland have the disease. “I’d say there’s 200,000 to 300,000 people conservatively who don’t know they have disease”.

He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last August and said it was a huge wake-up call for him.

He said the report puts pressure on GPs to advertise the seriousness of diabetes.

“People can be given a chance, and I am the living proof of this, if we implement giving a free blood test to people of a certain age for type 2 diabetes.

“When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I got the wake-up call when I came out of the chemist and it meant that I had to take nine tablets a day for the rest of my life, at 50 years of age, I said - ‘ain’t going to happen’.

“I was 17 stone 11 pounds at the time. That was last August and today I am 11 stone 8lb. So it was a huge wake up call for me. When you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you go on the long-term illness, which is costing the taxpayer a lot of money”

He said that “if we want to save money long-term down the road”, people should be given a free blood test.

Mr Butler asked for the Minister to be invited to the House to be debate the issue. He wanted to ask “can we put a free blood test in place and give people a chance in life”.

Party colleague Joe O’Reilly described Mr Butler’s suggestion as “radical and valuable”.

Former health minister James Reilly (FG) paid tribute to the report's main author Dr Velma Harkins. Dr Reilly said the report showed comprehensively that "80 per cent of complications of diabetes can be prevented if it's managed on a regular basis in general practice".

He said “this will require funding”. He added that the report had shown that “you don’t need expensive in-hospital care or expensive out-patient care to achieve great outcomes for a huge number of people in our population”.

Seanad leader jerry Buttimer described Mr Butler as “a walking ambassador for the need for pro-activity” and said the issue of type 2 diabetes was an issue that could be moved on.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times