Nurse specialists provide diabetes care of a similar quality to doctors and are more cost-effective, according to a study, which concludes nurses have not been used to their “full potential”.
The findings appear to contradict decisions by trusts to cut or re-assign specialist nurses in an effort to save money.
The two-year trial, by Maastricht University Medical Centre, compared hospital care given by nurse specialists with that given by doctors. Around 300 patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes took part.
Patient quality of life scores remained similar for patients receiving care from either type of clinician and the overall cost of care delivered was also similar.
A total of 1,003 outpatient consultations with the nurse specialist took place over the two years, with a total of 224.5 minutes of consultation time on average per patient during the study. This compared to 769 outpatient consultations with a doctor and a total of 85.8 minutes of consultation time on average per patient.
In addition, fewer of those treated by a nurse specialist developed diabetes related complications – 7% versus 12%.
The authors said: “The results of this study suggest that nurse specialists give care comparable to care provided by physicians in terms of quality of care and disease control.”
They said their findings showed nurse specialists were “more than capable” of taking the central role in multidisciplinary teams providing care to diabetes patients.
“Nurse specialists as central carers give a higher quantity of care, while utilising no more financial resources,” they add. “Instigating a nurse specialist as a central carer provides opportunities to achieve cost reductions.”
Simon O’Neill, Diabetes UK director of care, information and advocacy, said the study added to the evidence that specialist nurses were “able to provide excellent and cost effective care”.
“We believe that DSNs should be an integral part of the multidisciplinary team,” he said. “We feel the current trend of reducing their numbers is shortsighted and will impact on the long term health of patients.
“Nurses are already responsible for about 80% of direct diabetes care and we need to ensure that these nursing posts – hundreds of which are currently being frozen – are protected for the benefit of people with diabetes,” he added.