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Charity calls for hospital nurses to be ‘hypo aware’ in at-risk patients

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One in five inpatients with diabetes – around 58,000 – had a “hypo” in hospital last year, according to latest data, sparking a national charity to call on health professionals to more aware of the symptoms.

Diabetes UK is urging healthcare professionals to be hypo-aware for Hypo-awareness Week, which takes place from 24- 30 September.

“Hypos are dangerous, particularly for inpatients whose hypo-awareness is low”

Emily Watts

The charity wants to raise awareness about hypoglycaemia and is encouraging healthcare professionals working in hospitals to look out for the signs of hypoglycaemia (hypo) and ensure those at high risk are given the necessary support.

The most recent NHS National Diabetes Inpatient Audit showed that, for the second year running, 18% diabetes inpatients experienced a hypo during their stay in hospital.

Hypoglycaemia occurs when the blood glucose levels of someone with diabetes drop too low, usually below 4mmol/l.

An untreated hypoglycaemic episode can lead to blurred vision, confusion, seizures and, in severe cases, unconsciousness and coma.

The audits also found that the majority of hypoglycaemic episodes occurred between 5:00am and 8:59am, when inpatients were sleeping and have less access to sugary snacks which will maintain their glucose levels.

The annual NHS Diabetes Inpatient Audits show gradual improvements to care for inpatients with diabetes, but the proportion of inpatients experiencing a hypo in hospital has remained close to one in five.

In 2017, 58,000 inpatients with diabetes experienced a severe episode of hypoglycaemia, according to Diabetes UK’s Making Hospitals Safer For People With Diabetes Report, which will be released on 8 October.

Emily Watts, Diabetes UK’s inpatient care programme manager, said: “Hypos are dangerous, particularly for inpatients whose hypo-awareness is low because they are sick and less able to spot the tell-tale signs.

“It’s so important for healthcare professionals working in hospitals to be aware of patients who are particularly at risk of hypos,” she said.

“With 58,000 inpatients with diabetes experiencing a severe case of hypoglycaemia in 2017 highlights the urgent need for changes in how diabetes inpatients are cared for and supported during their hospital stays,” she added.

Incidence of hypos at hospital is one of the focal points of Diabetes UK’s Making Hospitals Safer For People With Diabetes Report.

The report examines the state of care for diabetes inpatients and makes recommendations for improvement.

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