A peer has urged NHS service providers to recognise the value of specialist nurses for supporting patients with long-term conditions, based on her own experiences.
During a debate last week in the House of Lords, Baroness Masham of Ilton called for better standards nationally for diabetes management.
“I only wish that all health trusts realised how important specialist nurses are for specialised conditions”
She recounted the “invaluable” care that her late husband had received from a specialist nurse when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after having a stroke.
The cross-bench peer, who regularly speaks in debates on health and disability issues, added that specialist nurses were important for helping patients with a range of long-term conditions.
“I found, with my husband’s different complications, that the specialist diabetic nurse was invaluable,” she said. “Things could get very complicated, and being able to telephone and get advice was very important.
“I only wish that all health trusts realised how important specialist nurses are for specialised conditions, of which there are many,” she told the Lords.
The baroness’ comments came during a debate on diabetes care, brought by Labour peer Lord Harrison, who himself has the type 1 form of the condition.
He asked the government what steps they were taking to assist patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to educate themselves about managing the disease.
“Everyone with diabetes needs to understand what the condition means for them in relation to holidays, employment, driving, maintaining a balanced diet and being physically active,” he said.
“Lady Masham talked about the importance of diabetic specialist nurses who provide a tremendous resource to people suffering from diabetes”
He noted that diabetes was responsible for more than 135 amputations every week, but that diabetes-related amputations were avoidable.
He called on NHS England to “deliver on its promise” in the Five-Year Forward View to support people in managing their own health and to invest in self-management education courses.
Baroness Masham said it was “clear that the condition is not always managed properly”.
She pointed to figures showing regional variations in amputation rates, claiming that care was “very patchy across the county”.
In response, health minister Lord Prior of Brampton stated that specialist nurses provided “a tremendous resource to people suffering from diabetes”.
He added that diabetes was a “priority for the government” and that it was “fully committed to combating and preventing” the condition.
“We are working hard… not only to ensure that those who have diabetes are empowered to manage their condition as effectively as possible, but that those who are at risk of diabetes are given the tools, knowledge and support they need to reduce their chances of developing it,” said Lord Prior, who was until recently chair of the Care Quality Commission.
He highlighted a number of initiatives currently under way, including NHS England’s Realising the Value programme for long-term conditions and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s quality standard for diabetes.
“Self-care will be a very important part of going forward,” he said. “Secondly, we have to do better on education.”