Data from Robin Hewings - Curated by EPG Health - Last updated 10 April 2017

"Well it’s just a box ticking exercise isn’t it?”

Not everyone is convinced that education courses help people look after their diabetes. And the GP I was chatting to a couple of months ago was one of them. He wasn’t sure they worked. People didn’t seem that interested and he wasn’t really sure what people would learn anyway.

But it’s worth listening to people who have actually attended a course. Allan Rutland has had Type 1 diabetes for three decades. “Before the course I was being scraped up literally by paramedics due to hypos at least once a week. One week three times in a week. Four years now since the course.”

Claire Senior was diagnosed with Type 2 in 1993. “If I had had the opportunity to have some training at the beginning I think that I might have managed my diabetes more effectively than I have done.”

But there is more than anecdotes. NICE recommend that everyone with diabetes receives a structured patient education programme. Randomised and controlled trials show that the most well known course for Type 1, Dafne, significantly improves people’s long-term control of diabetes – even seven years after the course. It reduces the risk of people being admitted to hospital for severe low or high blood glucose levels by two thirds.

RCTs show that courses for Type 2 also help people manage their diabetes better so they are able to control blood glucose levels better. On top of this, diabetes education courses help people feel more in control of their condition and reduce depression.

If you are one of the many healthcare professionals who are working day-in-day-out supporting the millions of people currently living with diabetes in the UK you will see the damage and destruction of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes every day in your surgeries, clinics and hospitals.

 

Nationally, there are 3.3 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK - 1.2 million more than a decade ago.

And you’ll also see the numbers of people with the condition rising. Nationally, there are 3.3 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK - 1.2 million more than a decade ago.

The seriousness of diabetes – and its ever increasing scale - mean that we need to have a laser like focus on what are the best services for people with diabetes. And the evidence is that diabetes education courses is the big missed opportunity in diabetes care. The courses are relatively inexpensive: about £65 for a day long conference. Less than the cost of a couple of GP appointments or a box of some medications.

And because the real costs of diabetes are in the long-term complications, they recoup costs. For Type 2 courses, they are generally classed as “very cost-effective”. The main Type 1 courses manages to avoid so many complications that it saves the NHS money after about four or five years.

So why is there a problem? The answer is that it is not enough to put on some courses and assume that ‘if I build it, he will come’. People only go on courses if their healthcare professional convince them to attend. And that will only happen if the healthcare professional is confident that their particular local course is worthwhile. Everywhere that has got diabetes education a really significant part of their population has put real focus on talking to their GPs.

Courses need to be put on at times that fit around people’s lives, in places they can get to. There are also needs to be an electronic administration system so it is possible to have a quick chat with people before they come to answer any niggling questions they might have. It means it is possible to follow up people who don’t come, get feedback and work out which times and locations and popular. The basics of any service.

 

Most people with diabetes spend no more than three hours a year with a healthcare professional.

We need to do better. People living with diabetes have to constantly self-manage their condition, which can include having to monitor food and drink intake and adjusting insulin treatment to ensure blood glucose levels are at the right level.

Most people with diabetes spend no more than three hours a year with a healthcare professional. In the remaining 8,757 hours, they manage their condition alone. So we need to make sure we are giving them the knowledge to do so. We would not dream of letting someone drive a car if they had not learned how to do so, and yet we seem to think it is okay to expect people to manage a complex and potentially life-threatening condition without any structured education in how to do so.

Until diabetes education is available to all people with diabetes, we will continue to deny people living with the condition the best chance of living long and healthy lives.

The ‘Taking Control’ campaign has launched ahead of World Diabetes Day on Saturday, 14 November. Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #TakingControl.

To find out more about the ‘Taking Control’ campaign and to take action to ensure everyone with diabetes has access to diabetes education, visit www.diabetes.org.uk/taking-control

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