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.”