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Care homes have 'worrying' lack of diabetes knowledge

A lack of training in diabetes among care home staff is putting people at risk and leaving “masses” of residents undiagnosed, it has been claimed.

An audit of more than 2,000 care homes found 60% did not have a designated member of staff with responsibility for diabetes management.

There was a lack of knowledge about the signs and symptoms of hypoglycaemia with more than 35 per cent of homes did not have a written policy for managing them.

The audit also discovered only one in ten residents were reported to have diabetes, despite previous research showing prevalence was closer to 26%.

The audit, the first of its kind to be carried out in England, was led by the Institute of Diabetes for Older People based at the University of Bedfordshire.

Institute director and audit lead, Professor Alan Sinclair, said: “We appreciate the strain placed on care home staff but the results of the audit demonstrated major concerns which need urgent attention.”

He added: “We also know there are masses of people with diabetes in care homes who are undiagnosed. The longer it takes them to become diagnosed, the more their health will suffer, leading to the potential of the development of unseen complications.”

The institute is calling for all care homes to screen residents for diabetes on admission, and at regular intervals thereafter, and to ensure staff are aware of good practice guidelines in relation to the care of patients with diabetes. .

It also said care homes should improve relationships with primary care and provide opportunities for staff to take part in training.

Chief Executive of Diabetes UK Barbara Young described the findings as “deeply worrying”.

She said: “They show that far too many older and vulnerable people are being denied basic standards of diabetes care and this is something that needs to be addressed urgently.

“With the number of people with diabetes projected to rise over the next few years, even more people with the condition will be entering our care home system or develop diabetes during their time in it and, if nothing changes, their health will continue to suffer, putting their lives at risk, as a result of a systemic failure to train people properly and deliver consistently good standards of care.”

Baroness Young said it was “completely unacceptable” that there were no mandatory requirements for care homes to train staff in diabetes care, such as exists for dementia care.

She added: “As part of the Joint British Diabetes Societies, we are working with the Care Quality Commission to strengthen the regulatory framework around diabetes in care homes.”

Readers' comments (9)

  • Diabetes screening??? They are not checking blood pressures even once a year, and maybe a 5% has pulseoximeters!!!

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  • Worrying? if only! Totally and utterly clueless. That's why RGNs should either work there or at least do regular checks.

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  • They are in a care home to be looked after as if they are at home. What is your problem? If they are happy and healthy why would you want to be pricking and poking these elderly folk who just want to enjoy their last few years being entertained and playing bingo with the odd sing a long thrown in. They don't want to be swallowing handfuls of needless pills. Give them a break for goodness sake.

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  • All nursing homes will have a registered nurse who is probably overrun with medication and admin duties as they would be on a hospital ward why not have a years mandatory training for support staff similar to American certified nurses assistants. I am not calling for state enrolled nursing to return but surely support staff need more than a very bare mandatory training. I know one home-care (but predominately pre-residential care clients) where training consists of 3 shifts and a work book!

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  • there seems to be no clear distinctions between nursing homes, care homes and old peoples' homes. those claiming to be medicalised establishments must have a staff of registered nurses otherwise they should not mislead the public and their residents by using these titles and making these claims.

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  • Excuse me for my following rant ..at my care home all the trained nurses are aware what diabetes is .we often preempt the Gp when a resident is unwell repeatedly to undertake routine screening to exclude this .. Even my senior carers suggest this too .. Care homes as opposed to residential homes have trained nurses on the premises and as such should know what to look for.granted we do not necessarily have someone on the staff who has something like the Warwick diabetes course but please don't tar all care homes with the same brush it's an insult !!!

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  • Also for information we check vital signs at least monthly .. Any concerns we contact the doctor and if the resident is an insulin dependant diabetic x2 daily blood sugars are monitored and We do know what to look for ,,,,,!,,,mm

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  • So no else wants to comment on my previous posts .. I rest my case !!

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  • Maybe some care homes are better than others but definitely standards need to be set for all to keep, in homes and for everyone working with the elderly.
    As a home care assistant before starting nursing training, my diabetes training was basic to say the least.
    I cared for one man who had blood sugar checked by nurses twice a day but could check it himself if he was feeling unwell - one time he checked it while I was there and the reading was very high, but neither of us knew if it was at all dangerous. I called my supervisor and she didn't know either - told me to call 999 just in case! Things like this should not happen, supervisors at the very least should know how to interpret that.

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