What are the 15 Healthcare Essentials?

There is a minimum level of healthcare that everyone with diabetes should be getting, for free, every year from their healthcare team - the 15 Healthcare Essentials.

Use the checklist below or download the checklist (PDF, 65KB), to talk to your healthcare team about your individual needs as part of your annual care planning review. This is where you should agree your priorities, set personal targets, and agree a written plan of action to help you reach them.

1. Get your blood glucose levels measured

You should have your blood glucose levels measured at least once a year. An HbA1c blood test measures your overall blood glucose control over the previous three months and helps you and your diabetes healthcare team set your own target. 

This long-term picture is different from self-monitoring your blood glucose levels, which indicates your blood glucose level at the time of the test. For many people with diabetes self-monitoring is necessary to manage their diabetes well. Not everyone needs to self-monitor, but if you do you should have access to test strips and the equipment you need.

2. Have your blood pressure measured

Your blood pressure should be measured and recorded at least once a year, and you should agree a personal target that is right for you. 

3. Have your blood fats measured

Yous should have your blood fats (such as cholesterol and triglycerides) measured every year. Like blood glucose levels and blood pressure, you should have your own targets that are realistic and achievable. 

Working towards and reaching your targets for blood glucose, blood pressure and blood fats is an important part of managing your diabetes and should be reviewed at least once a year as part of your check-up. Your healthcare team is there to offer advice and support to help you reach your targets, and reduce your risk of developing long-term complications.

4. Have your eyes screened for signs of retinopathy

Your eyes should be screened for signs of retinopathy every year by your local diabetic eye screening service. A special camera is used to take a photo of your retina (at the back of your eye) and a specialist will look for any changes. This free test is different to the checks carried out by an optician. If you notice any sight changes between appointments it is important to contact your optometrist or GP. 

People with diabetes at higher risk of developing retinopathy and if left undetected and untreated, it can lead to blindness. That’s why it’s so important that you have your eyes checked annually by a specialist.

Read more about diabetes, eyes and retinopathy

5. Have your feet and legs checked

The skin, circulation and nerve supply of your feet and legs should be examined at least once a year, normally by your GP or practice nurse, but also if problems arise or on admission to hospital. You should be told if you are at risk of foot problems, how serious they are and if you need to be referred to a specialist podiatrist or foot clinic. 

People with diabetes are at much greater risk of developing problems with their feet. If left untreated, these problems can cause foot ulcers, infections and can even lead to amputations. However, most foot problems are preventable with good, regular foot care. It’s important to keep an eye on your feet and make sure that you get a quality foot check from a properly trained person at least once a year.

Read more about diabetes and your feet, including how to look after your feet and what your annual foot check should look like.

6. Have your kidney function monitored annually

You should have two tests to measure your kidney function every year: a urine test for protein (a sign of possible kidney problems) and a blood test to measure kidney function. 

People with diabetes are at increased risk of kidney problems. In the very early stages there are usually no symptoms, so having your kidney function tested is really important to pick up any problems early, before they develop and you begin to feel unwell.

Your urine will be checked for tiny particles of protein, called 'microalbumin'. These appear during the first stages of kidney disease, as the kidneys become 'leaky' and lose protein. At this stage, kidney disease can often be treated successfully, so this test is very important. The blood test measures urea, creatine, and estimated glomerular function (eGFR) showing how well the kidneys are working.

Read more about diabetes and kidneys

7. Get individual, ongoing dietary advice

You should receive ongoing dietary advice from a healthcare professional with appropriate expertise in nutrition, and be referred to a dietitian for tailored advice if necessary. You should have the opportunity to check your weight and get the support and information you need to manage your weight. 

Having diabetes means it's even more important to follow a healthy diet, but that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy food. Our Enjoy Food section is full of recipes, advice and expert nutritional information. 

8. Get emotional and psychological support

Being diagnosed with diabetes and living with a long term condition can be difficult. You should be able to talk about your issues and concerns with specialist healthcare professionals. Diabetes can be hard, whether you’ve just been diagnosed or have lived with the condition for years. It’s important that you are able to talk about your issues and concerns with specialist healthcare professionals, so that they can support and advise you in the right way. 

You can also call the Diabetes UK Helpline for answers, support or just to talk to someone who understands diabetes.

9. Be offered a group education course in your local area

You should be offered a diabetes education course when you are diagnosed, or as part of a yearly refresher, to help you understand and manage your diabetes. If you are unable or don’t wish to attend a group course, you should be offered a suitable alternative. 

Our Taking Control campaign is working to make sure that everyone with diabetes has the chance tp learn more about diabetes. You can also read more about the types of diabetes education courses and hear from people who have been on them.

Type 2 Diabetes and Me is our free, step-by-step online guide to help you understand and manage your condition. You can go through it at your own pace, in your own time. 

10. See specialist diabetes healthcare professionals to help you manage your diabetes

Diabetes affects different parts of the body and you should be referred to specialist professionals when needed, such as a diabetes specialist nurse, dietitian, ophthalmologist, pharmacist or podiatrist. 

11. Get a free flu vaccination

You should get a flu vaccination every year from your GP. People with diabetes are at greater risk of severe illness, such as pneumonia, if they get flu. You should also be given a personal care plan telling you what steps to take if you are ill.

Read more about the flu vaccination, and how to manage your diabetes if you're unwell

12. Receive high-quality care if admitted to hospital

If you have to stay in hospital, you should still receive high-quality diabetes care from specialist healthcare professionals, whether you have been admitted due to your diabetes or not. 

13. Have the opportunity to talk about any sexual problems

You should have have the opportunity to talk to your healthcare team about any sexual problems you might be experiencing, or concerns you might have. Diabetes increases the risk of sexual dysfunction in both men and women and can be caused by physical, emotional and lifestyle factors, or medication you might be taking. You should be assessed and given support and education, and referred to an appropriate service if necessary. 

Read more about sex and diabetes 

14. If you smoke, get support and advice on how to quit

Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and smoking further increases this risk. If you smoke, you should be given the support and advice you need to help you quit.

Find out more about diabetes and smoking, including advice on how to quit

15. Get information and specialist care if you are planning to have a baby

Your diabetes control has to be a lot tighter and monitored very closely before and during pregnancy. You should expect support from specialist healthcare professionals at every stage from preconception to post-natal care. 

Having children is a big decision for anyone and if you are a woman who has diabetes, it is a decision that requires much more thought and careful planning. Your healthcare team should be there every step of the way to give you specialist advice and support from planning and pre-conception advice to post-natal care. 

Read more about diabetes and pregnancy

 

If you're not getting your 15 healthcare essentials, you should first speak to your diabetes healthcare team.

Find out more about what to do if you're not getting your essential checks and services.