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Nurses could provide psychological support to diabetes patients

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Training nurses to deliver psychological support to patients with type 2 diabetes could reduce waiting lists for specialist treatment, according to UK researchers.

Diabetes patients are at risk of depression and other mental health problems as a result of the burden of their condition which, in turn, can negatively affect their HbA1c control.

However, access to services such as cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling on the health service has been patchy and prone to delays because of a shortage of psychological specialists.

University of Warwick researchers suggested that training generalist clinicians – including practice nurses and diabetes specialist nurses – to deliver these services could be a solution.

They reviewed 35 trials – including three carried out in the UK – half of which involved psychological therapies being delivered to diabetes patients by psychological specialists and the remainder by general healthcare professionals who had received training.

The authors found that HbA1c levels were reduced by the same degree – 0.5–1% – irrespective of whether therapy was given by psychological therapist or a general clinician.

‘There is a shortage of psychological specialists within the NHS and psychological treatments are difficult to access for most patients,’ the authors said in Patient Education and Counselling.

‘With some additional training, diabetes and generalist clinicians have the potential to effectively deliver psychological interventions and improve patient outcomes.’

Karen Wood, a practice nurse at the Chastleton Medical Group in Durham, who has been trained in psychological interventions, said: ‘If this is delivered efficiently, it can have a huge, positive impact on their illness and lives.

‘I can now help patients become more prepared to cope with the diagnosis of diabetes.’

Caroline Butler, care adviser for Diabetes UK, added: ‘We would welcome the provision of training, support and supervision to enable healthcare professionals to deliver appropriate emotional and psychological support.’

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