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'Cost-effective' diabetes nurses must be recognised by commissioners

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Specialist nurses must be better recognised by commissioners for their important role in providing cost-effective diabetes care, according to a charity, which has also warned the condition is now an urgent public health issue.

Diabetes UK said specialist nurses were a “key” part of providing high quality and value-for-money diabetes care, because they help to prevent expensive complications and assist people with self-management.

They can also reduce hospital admissions, as well as minimise prescribing errors and length of stay for people who require secondary care, said the charity.

In its report – called State of the Nation Report (England): challenges for 2015 and beyond – the charity warned that many people with diabetes were routinely receiving poor care by not having their required annual checks.

“People with diabetes are failing to receive the support they need to self-manage their condition effectively”

Barbara Young

Meanwhile, it highlighted the growing number of people with diabetes who, as a result, required expensive treatments and were at risk of serious complications and early death.

Currently, 2.7m people in England – 6% of the population – have been diagnosed with the condition, with almost 10 million at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is preventable, said the report.

Around 10% – £10bn – of the annual NHS budget is spent on diabetes, said the report, adding that the vast majority of this money was spent on managing complications, which could also be largely prevented.

The charity urged commissioners to recognise the importance of diabetes specialist nurses when designing services.

Barbara Young

Barbara Young

It called on them to ensure all hospitals employed specialist diabetes staff – including nurses, dieticians, and podiatrists – and that services in all care settings met minimum staffing levels.

An earlier report by Diabetes UK defined these staffing levels as five diabetes specialist nurses per 250,000 people, and one diabetes inpatient specialist nurse per 300 beds.

However, the charity claimed specialist nurse posts were being cut or downgraded, while many other healthcare professionals were unable to identify diabetes. 

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “People with diabetes are failing to receive the support they need to self-manage their condition effectively – again, elevating the risk of long-term complications.

“Few people are offered or attend diabetes education, have personalised care plans, or have access to emotional support and specialist psychological care,” she said.

She added: “We all have to act before the number of people with diabetes overwhelms our health and social care systems and consumes an even greater proportion of the NHS budget.”

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