A leading nurse consultant has called the current state of diabetes nursing “extremely worrying” and warned that the country could face a “ticking time bomb of poor health” unless changes are made.
Debbie Hicks, co-founder of Training, Research and Education for Nurses in Diabetes-UK (TREND-UK), is calling for an urgent change within the sector before things get any worse.
“We’ve got to do something before we completely run out”
She said: “We’ve got big problems. There are more people needing help in primary care, but when they’re referred on to see a diabetes specialist nurse, there may not be one.
“These people with diabetes are becoming more complex and we just don’t have the specialist nurses to support them,” said Ms Hicks.
“The other issue is that, as a population of diabetes nurses, there’s a huge number of them who are due to retire in the next few years,” she noted.
“I don’t know why nurses don’t want to get into diabetes as a speciality, but we’ve got to do something before we completely run out,” she said.
Ms Hicks, who works for the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, also highlighted recent results from the 2017 National Diabetes Inpatient Audit.
“The role of the diabetes specialist nurse has become somewhat blurred over the years”
The findings suggested more than a quarter of hospital sites do not have dedicated diabetes inpatient specialist nurses.
She said: “I think this is extremely worrying because we know from the report that the amount of people with diabetes who are sat on the wards is rising year on year and, if nurses don’t have the right skills, then people with diabetes are not going to get the appropriate care they need.
“With the number of people with diabetes rising and the number of diabetes specialist nurses getting lower, we could be looking at a ticking time bomb of poor health,” she added.
Ms Hicks noted that TREND-UK was working hard to encourage more nurses into the diabetes care profession.
“Things will only change when we can raise the profile of diabetes specialist nursing,” she said. “We also want to develop a specific diabetes specialist nursing course and qualification that equips a nurse to become a skilled and competent diabetes specialist nurse.
“Until we’ve done that, we are going to have such a variation in knowledge and skills, because the role of the diabetes specialist nurse has become somewhat blurred over the years,” she said.
“There are lots of different titles – diabetes nurses, diabetes specialist nurses, practice nurses with a special interest,” she said. “So how do we ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet?”
“How do we ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet?”
Ms Hicks, who has had type 1 diabetes herself since 1975 and has been in diabetes nursing since 1990, has also published more than 130 study papers on a variety of subjects related to the condition.
Meanwhile, she is due to give a presentation at Diabetes Professional Care 2018 – the UK’s largest diabetes conference – at Olympia London on 14 and 15 November.