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'We have a key role in the long-term plan for preventing type 2 diabetes'

Amanda Epps
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The NHS Long Term Plan puts a focus on prevention with initiatives such as improvements to NHS premises to include healthier options of hospital food for staff and patients; increased education for frontline staff on nutrition and achieving a healthy weight; and doubling the capacity of the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

As a diabetes specialist nurse this is music to my ears. Currently there are 3.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes, with around 200,000 new presentations each year. The rate of new diagnoses of diabetes has doubled in the last 20 years with 90% of these cases being type 2 diabetes – which is largely preventable.

“Nurses are some of the best-placed health professionals to recognise those who may be at risk”

I have seen first-hand the effect type 2 diabetes has on people’s lives and I think nurses are some of the best-placed health professionals to recognise those who may be at risk. That’s why I will be taking part in Diabetes Prevention Week – to raise awareness of the risk factors of type 2 diabetes with colleagues and patients alike.

Diabetes Prevention Week is a joint campaign from NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK, which falls on the week of 1-7 April this year.

Last year was the first awareness week of its kind in the country. The week saw many nursing teams raising awareness of type 2 diabetes, the complications associated with it – and importantly, the ways individuals can help to prevent or delay a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

It is also a great opportunity to remind health professionals of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes and to help them identify who may be eligible for programmes, such as the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

The main risk factors include:

  • Being overweight – especially around the abdomen;
  • Ethnicity – in particular people of South Asian, African-Caribbean or black African descent;
  • Being over 40 years old;
  • Having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

Getting involved in Diabetes Prevention Week is easy – all you have to do is order a free Diabetes Prevention Week toolkit and use the materials within it during the week in April.

The toolkit includes everything you need to run a local type 2 diabetes prevention stall or event, including leaflets, posters, stickers and bunting.

Myself and other members of the Diabetes Specialist Nurse Forum UK have already shared ideas for how to mark the week, including awareness stalls in supermarkets, work places, community centres and places of worship.

Many nurses will be using the Diabetes UK Know Your Risk score with members of the public, colleagues, friends and family to identify people at high risk and refer them on to their local Healthier You service via their GP surgery.

There are many local community based projects, which can be promoted as part of the week too, such as Parkrun, a free community project run by volunteers in parks across the UK to get more people doing physical exercise.

You can find out about more initiatives local to you from your local council – many are free of charge. Our local council, for example, provides free swimming sessions, Nordic walking and some residents who may not be eligible for the Healthier You service may be eligible for free entry to community weight loss programmes.

The week provides an excellent opportunity to make or refresh these local links – and to work together in raising awareness of the variety of services on offer to prevent type 2 diabetes.

As a team in Medway, we also use the opportunity Diabetes Prevention Week presents to highlight ways to prevent the associated complications that can arise from diabetes too, such as foot ulcers and amputations, by sharing the Putting Feet First leaflet. And to highlight the importance of keeping Hba1c and blood glucose as close to target range as possible to help to avoid associated complications, such as delayed wound healing, increased risk of infection, and an increased risk of microvascular and macrovascular complications.

The NHS Long Term Plan has made a clear commitment to preventing type 2 diabetes and making sure the public, especially those from at-risk groups, are aware of the condition.

As health professionals we have a key role in making the long-term plan a reality. Diabetes Prevention Week is an easy way to play your part.

Get involved in Diabetes Prevention Week by ordering your free toolkit here.

Amanda Epps is an adult inpatient diabetes specialist nurse at Medway Foundation Trust

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