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Diabetes teams must be fully staffed to cut insulin errors, says charity

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Insulin errors are still a “worrying problem” in hospitals across England and Wales, according to the charity Diabetes UK, which says diabetes inpatient teams must be “fully staffed” to ensure safe care.

In the run-up to its first ever Insulin Safety Week over the next few days, the charity stressed the importance role of diabetes teams in supporting ward staff to administer insulin safely.

“The number of insulin errors and inappropriate insulin infusions remains a very worrying problem”

David Jones

In spite of financial pressures and budget cuts, it said it was vital that these teams, which include specialist nurses, were “fully staffed”.

Figures from the National Diabetes Inpatient Audit in 2017 show nearly two fifths of people being treated with insulin for type 1 or type 2 diabetes experienced an insulin error in hospital last year.

The audit also found 6% of insulin infusions were inappropriate, while some lasted for at least a week. It highlighted that infusions should only be used in hospitals when absolutely necessary because of the increased risk of hypos and medication errors.

Insulin errors could be extremely serious and lead to potentially life threatening diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) if not treated quickly, the charity noted.

The audit data showed one in 25 people with type 1 diabetes experienced DKA in hospital and one in five – 18% – had a hypo while admitted.

“We need to do more to support diabetes teams to help their colleagues provide safe”

David Jones

David Jones, assistant director of improvement support and innovation at Diabetes UK, said it was clear more work was needed to reduce errors and improve safety, which was why the charity had launched Insulin Safety Week.

“Diabetes teams are doing fantastic work to improve diabetes care. However, the number of insulin errors and inappropriate insulin infusions remains a very worrying problem,” he said.

“It is essential that people with diabetes feel safe when they stay in hospital,” he said. “We have spoken to too many people who don’t, and these figures show that there is still work to do to improve safety.

“We need to do more to support diabetes teams to help their colleagues provide safe and appropriate care,” he added.

Hospitals can sign up to take part in Insulin Safety Week, which runs from 14 to 20 May, and obtain a resource pack at the charity’s special website for the awareness event.

Diabetes UK also offers a “shared practice library” where hospitals can access examples of good practice in diabetes care and a free online training module in insulin safety.

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