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Diabetes education offered to just one in 10 people newly diagnosed

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Barely one in 10 people newly diagnosed with diabetes are recorded as being offered education to help them manage their condition, according to a new analysis by Diabetes UK.

The analysis, based on data from the National Diabetes Audit and launched to mark World Diabetes Day today (Thursday), shows that just 13.5 per cent of 239,251 people who were newly diagnosed were recorded as being offered a structured education course during 2011/12. Less than one in 30 people (2.9 per cent) were recorded as having actually attended one of the courses.

The picture is even worse for Type 1 diabetes, with just 2.7 per cent of people newly diagnosed with Type 1 being recorded as having been offered structured education and just 0.6 per cent as having attended a course.

This is despite the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommending that everyone diagnosed with diabetes should be offered a place on one of these courses because those who do attend them say that it helps them better understand diabetes and so gives them more confidence in managing their condition. Diabetes UK is concerned that the lack of structured education is putting people’s long-term health at risk and has called on the NHS to ensure all newly diagnosed people are offered it and to address the low take-up rate by making people who are offered it better understand the positive impact it can have.

According to the charity, there is strong evidence that structured education improves people’s ability to be in control of their diabetes because it takes into account how the condition affects various aspects of people’s lives. It could also save the NHS money in the long-term by helping prevent the kind of diabetes complications that it is currently spending £8billion a year on treating.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “People with diabetes spend only a few hours a year with a healthcare professional, and for the rest of the time it is them who has to manage on a day in day out basis what is a complex and serious condition. Given this, it is deeply concerning that in almost nine out of 10 cases the NHS is failing to offer newly diagnosed people the tools they need to get to grips with it.

“Structured education can make such a positive difference that it is a tragedy that it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. They may be left unaware of how serious diabetes can be and how important managing their condition is for their future health and life. They may lack practical information about things like blood glucose testing or carbohydrate counting. Education gives people the confidence and skills to manage their condition day in and day out, taking account of their own needs and priorities.

“Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that treating the complications of diabetes is so expensive that any short term savings from not putting on these courses is outweighed by the huge cost of the consequences of people not being able to manage their condition. This means the lack of structured education is bad news for the long-term finances of the NHS as well as being bad news for people with diabetes. We need this to change. Every time someone is diagnosed with diabetes and not offered structured education, that person is being let down and the NHS needs to take urgent action to bring this situation to an end.”

Because of the very low levels of provision of structured education, Diabetes UK has worked with Bupa to develop Type 2 Diabetes and Me, an online programme that gives information about managing Type 2 diabetes for those who have not yet been offered structured education. But while this provides basic information about the condition, it should not be viewed as an alternative or replacement for a structured education course.

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