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Diabetes tsar: educate patients

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Structured education for patients with diabetes is an essential part of diabetes management and not a “luxury” to be cut, one of the country’s leading diabetes experts has told Nursing Times.

Department of Health national clinical director for diabetes Rowan Hillson said structured education programmes were the “cornerstone” of good diabetes management, but there was a “real worry” investment in programmes could be cut as the NHS tried to find £20bn in savings over the next three years.

Dr Hillson’s comments came as data from the latest national diabetes audit revealed improved access to healthcare services had not translated into better outcomes for patients with diabetes.

According to the report from the NHS Information Centre, 51 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes were receiving all nine of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s recommended care processes for diabetes in 2008-09, compared with 40 per cent in 2007-08.

In total, 90 per cent of people with diabetes in England and Wales are now in contact with their healthcare teams at least once a year.

Despite that, blood pressure treatment targets are not being met in over half of patients with diabetes and more than one third have poor blood sugar control.

Dr Hillson said improving patient self-care was vital.

“Patients need to be taught the input that they can have in their care. In these times of financial stringency, structured education may be seen as a luxury, but it is not. It is a fundamental part of diabetes care and diabetes care planning.”

Honorary nurse consultant in diabetes at Portsmouth Hospitals Trust Sue Cradock agreed.

She told Nursing Times: “We need major behaviour change, and systems in place to support self-care and free up nurse specialists to run better care planning consultations and start delivering patient education in groups.”

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