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PRACTICE REVIEW

Reducing admissions for people with diabetes

New guidance from a group of diabetes organisations has identified how commissioners and hospital trusts can work together to reduce admissions associated with diabetes

In this article…

  • Why admissions linked to diabetes need to be addressed
  • Variations in diabetes admission rates
  • Diabetes services associated with reduced admissions

 

Author

Belinda Allan is consultant diabetologist at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust.

 

Abstract

Allan B (2014) Reducing admissions for people with diabetes. Nursing Times; 110: 10, 12-13.
Reversing the rise in emergency hospital admissions is an NHS priority. These admissions impact on elective capacity and waiting times and are unsustainable. The risk of hospitalisation for people with diabetes is almost twice that for others. Commissioners need to address admissions associated with diabetes and new guidance offers best-practice solutions.

  • This article has been double-blind peer reviewed
  • Figures and tables can be seen in the attached print-friendly PDF file of the complete article in the ‘Files’ section of this page

 

5 key points

  • The risk of hospitalisation for people with diabetes is almost twice that of those without the condition
  • There are approximately one million hospital admissions each year where diabetes is a diagnosis
  • Around 87% of people in hospital with diabetes have been admitted as an emergency
  • There are variations in diabetes admission rates between acute trusts, which cannot be explained by diabetes prevalence
  • Small-scale changes can significantly reduce admissions for people with diabetes

 

 

The scale and cost of diabetes hospital admissions is enormous. The risk of hospitalisation for people with the condition is almost double that of those without (Moghissi et al, 2009).

Each year there are approximately one million admissions to hospital where diabetes appears as a diagnosis, costing an estimated £2.51bn (Kerr, 2011). Of these, about 250,000 are in excess of the numbers expected for an age-adjusted population without diabetes. The estimated cost to the NHS of these excess admissions is around £686m each year, notwithstanding the personal cost to the individual (Kerr, 2011).

There are significant variations between acute trusts in diabetes admission rates, which cannot be explained by differences in prevalence. This suggests that pathways of care, or their absence, must in some way be contributing to this.

New guidance

The Joint British Diabetes Societies Inpatient Group (sponsored by Diabetes UK and the Association of British Clinical Diabetologists) has published guidance detailing how commissioners and acute trusts can work together to reduce excess hospital admissions (Allan et al, 2013).

The guidance describes models of care that reduce emergency admissions but are often not commissioned or widely available. These provide the potential for rapid improvement in admission rates without the need for massive societal change or large-scale immediate investment.

Diabetes populations

People with diabetes are at a much higher risk of hospitalisation than those without the condition, and are far more likely to be admitted via the emergency route.

The National Diabetes Inpatient Audit (NaDIA) has consistently shown that around 87% of inpatients with diabetes have been admitted as an emergency (Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2013). In addition, once patients with diabetes are admitted, they are likely to experience longer stays. On average the excess length of stay is around 0.8 days longer than for patients without diabetes, but can be considerably longer (Sampson et al, 2007).

Knowing the age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes, the average excess length of stay, tariff uplift for urgent care and the higher cost of admissions that are emergencies allows the costs of caring for inpatients with diabetes to be estimated.

To address the problem, it is necessary to understand local population needs and the triggers for admission. Data on local activity patterns associated with admission can be found via the National Diabetes Information Service (tinyurl.com/NDIS-diabetes) and National Diabetes Inpatient Audit (tinyurl.com/NaDIA-audit). These contain benchmarking data on overall diabetes admission rates and diabetes-specific admissions (diabetic ketoacidosis, hypoglycaemia, hospital admission rates of care home residents with diabetes and diabetic foot disease).

Ambulance trusts should have data on call-outs for severe acute hypoglycaemia, and carry-on rates to the emergency department (ED). The national register of patients with diabetes in Scotland (SCI-DC Network) provides comprehensive information on diabetes and links primary and secondary data.

Many pharmaceutical companies have population and case-mix adjusted diabetes admission data (derived from hospital episode statistics) at practice and clinical commissioning group level. This allows benchmarking to a CCG area and comparison with the non-diabetes population.

The whole system or pathway of care for those with diabetes must be understood. This is because triggers for admission need to be linked with the key decision points in GP surgeries, ambulance trusts, out-of-hours care, EDs and pre-operative assessment.

Integrated diabetes care

Last year, Diabetes UK published a document advising commissioners on the key components of an integrated diabetes service (Diabetes UK, 2013). This advocates:

  • Services being close to patients’ homes;
  • Services without duplication or gaps;
  • Integrating primary and secondary care services;
  • Ensuring that the multidisciplinary team is competent and available;
  • Supporting self-management.

Integrated care will undoubtedly reduce the burden of diabetes admissions, particularly when diabetes itself is the primary reason for admission to hospital.

Diabetes-specific admissions

The JBDS document highlights several areas of care that have been shown to reduce admissions due to ketoacidosis (a potentially life-threatening complication), hypoglycaemia and diabetic foot ulceration (Allan et al, 2013). Its key recommendations are outlined in Box 1.

Challenges

Many nurses will recognise the lack of integrated working between agencies that makes delivering seamless diabetes care a challenge. The absence of technology allowing real-time communication between hospital and primary care remains a frustration to many.

It is difficult to know what savings could be made if all the JBDS recommendations were implemented. However, Kerr’s data (Kerr, 2011), suggests a 5% sustained reduction in admissions and associated costs could save £125m per year.

The admissions-avoidance document highlights many examples of small-scale changes that have led to significant reductions in admissions of people with diabetes. The list of “must dos” is understandably long, but diabetes affects so many people in so many ways that all these areas need to be addressed at the same time, and not in a piecemeal fashion.

Commissioners need to work with clinical teams - with nurse representation - to come to an agreement about what needs to be done to improve their local service. Eliminating the variations in the standards of care is the goal.

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