It’s Diabetes Week, and Stephen Ryan, Diabetes UK North of England Regional Manager, talks about the impact of the condition on North-East lives.
“Diabetes Week (June 14-20) is an opportunity to focus on this condition which affects more than 144,000 of people in the North-East.
“As everyone living with diabetes knows, managing the condition can be tough and overwhelming. For example, people with Type 1 diabetes – and those who have Type 2 and are on insulin – have to constantly monitor their food and drink intake, adjusting their insulin accordingly to ensure their blood sugar levels are about right.
“They do this day in and day out, and may only come into contact with their healthcare professionals a few times a year. In fact, on average, people with diabetes spend only three hours a year with a healthcare professional.
“For the remaining 8,757 hours they are left to manage their diabetes themselves. With it being a serious and complex health condition, people need to be well educated in managing their diabetes.
“Despite strong evidence that giving people the knowledge and skills to manage their diabetes effectively can significantly improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of developing devastating complications, diabetes education remains a postcode lottery.
“For example, in South Tyneside only 14.9 per cent newly diagnosed people are offered or attended structured education while the figure in Darlington is 60.9 per cent.
“It is therefore vital that we see more people with diabetes in the North-East being offered and attending education courses, not just at the time of diagnosis but throughout their lives.
The education needs of people with diabetes can change over time, so being able to access education and support at whatever point in time they need it is crucial to them better managing their health and avoiding serious and costly health complications.
Beyond the clear health benefits, supporting people with diabetes to become knowledgeable about their condition, along with providing them with better patient care, will go a long way to reducing NHS costs – diabetes currently accounts for 10 per cent of the entire NHS budget, and 80 per cent of this spend going on managing potentially avoidable complications.
“There is an urgent need for greater focus to be put on providing education.
“By empowering people with diabetes to take better control of their condition, we can give them the best possible chance of living long and healthy lives at the same time as saving an already strained NHS from the burden of huge, avoidable costs.
“We also need to increase the proportion of people with diabetes getting the eight annual checks in line with NICE recommendations.
“In South Tees, for example, only 50 per cent are receiving all these checks compared with the national average of 59.5per cent.
“This is worrying, given the critical role care has to play in the wellbeing of all people with diabetes.
“Through ensuring people with diabetes get the checks they need, together with better education and support, we can make a huge difference to people with diabetes.
“With new figures released this week by Diabetes UK highlighting that there are now 3.9 million people living with diabetes, and with it being projected that five million people will be living with the condition by 2025, the NHS needs to make providing education and better care to all people with diabetes a greater priority, but it is also vital that diabetes patients demand it.
“This is why the focus of Diabetes Week 2015 is raising awareness of the support, advice and education opportunities available to people with diabetes which will help them to look after themselves well.
“We offer people access to a range of support and education services. From expert advice from health professionals at our free Living with Diabetes Days to online tools, such as our ‘Type 2 Diabetes and Me’ course, and our brilliant care events for young people with Type 1 diabetes, there are plenty of different ways people with diabetes can learn more about how to manage their condition well.
“Diabetes is a very serious condition that no one should have to go through alone.”
• Join the conversation on Twitter by sharing your hints, tips and stories of living life to the full with diabetes, using the hashtag #DiabetesAndMe. Find out more at www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetesweek.