Knowing more about your diabetes

Whether you are newly diagnosed or have had diabetes for a while, you should receive the support and information you need to manage your diabetes well. This page gives you more details about the different ways you can learn about your diabetes, including information about courses that can help you stay healthy and live well.

Take control: attend a free diabetes course 

A diabetes education course can help you take control of your diabetes and live a normal, healthy life. It gives you the chance to improve your skills and confidence for managing your diabetes, ask questions and meet other people with diabetes. What’s more, evidence shows that people who attend these courses tend to have better control of their diabetes and experience fewer serious complications.

 

Taking the decision to attend the course was the best thing I ever did. It was the first time I really got my head straight on looking after myself.

Pete Ellis, living with Type 1 diabetes

 

Everyone in the UK with diabetes should be offered a free diabetes education course – both when you’re diagnosed and whenever you need one after that.

 

If you aren’t offered a course, or you think you’d benefit from a refresher, make sure you ask your healthcare professional about the courses that are available in your area.

What to expect on a course

Most courses are for small groups of ten people or fewer, and sometimes you’ll be able to bring a partner or friend along with you. There are specific courses for people with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Course content varies from course to course, but usually includes group work, practical tips, and sharing experiences.

You’ll learn more about subjects like diabetes and glucose, monitoring, medication, food choices, and how to take control of your diabetes so you can lead a normal, healthy life. The courses are informal, friendly and non-judgemental – there’ll be no pressure on you to speak up if you don’t want to.

These are some of the main diabetes courses available in the UK:

  • DAFNE: for people with Type 1 diabetes
  • DESMOND: for people with Type 2 diabetes
  • DESMOND BME: culturally specific programme for people with Type 2 diabetes from South Asian communities
  • X-PERT Diabetes Programme: for people with Type 2 diabetes.

There are also a number of locally based courses and learning opportunities – so do ask your healthcare professional about the different options relevant to you. If possible, we recommend that you attend a course that meets national quality standards set out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (known as NICE) – if in doubt ask your healthcare professional.

 

Before the course I was being scraped up literally by paramedics due to hypos at least once a week. One week three times in a week. Since the course I have not needed outside assistance once. Four years now since the course.

Allan Rutland, living with Type 1 diabetes for over 30 years

 

Time off work

Attending a course can be quite a big time commitment, and will often involve time off work. It’s not a legal requirement for your employer to give you time off to attend a course, but if you explain the benefits of attending they should be sympathetic. In particular, you can explain that if you do the course you’ll be less likely to take time off sick in the long run, as you’ll be better equipped to manage your diabetes and so will reduce your risk of complications.

Some course providers, such as DAFNE, can provide materials to give to your employer about the benefits of going on a course. Your healthcare professional may also be able to write to your employer to support your case.

If you are unable to take time off work, ask your healthcare professional about evening and weekend options, and check out the sources of informal learning and support listed below.

 

Other learning and support options


In addition to diabetes education courses, there are also a range of more informal learning and support options available to you.

  • Type 2 Diabetes and Me is an interactive online course to help people with Type 2 diabetes understand and manage their condition successfully. It was developed by Diabetes UK, in partnership with Bupa.
  • Living with Diabetes Days are free education days, hosted by Diabetes UK and held across the UK, for people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and those who have little knowledge of how to manage their condition. It’s a perfect opportunity to find out what Type 2 diabetes is, learn about the care you should get, and take part in workshops on things like diet, exercise, medication, avoiding complications, travel and driving. Find out more by watching our short films below.
  • Diabetes UK Care Events run across the UK and are aimed at children, young adults and families living with diabetes. They provide people living with diabetes opportunities to share and learn from each other in a relaxed and safe environment.
  • Diabetes UK is here to support you. You can call our dedicated diabetes Careline, talk to someone with diabetes, join our online communities, or sign up to a Diabetes UK local support group to meet and share experiences with others.
  • You can also order free resources to help you manage your diabetes and live a healthy life from our online shop.

There are also a number of locally based learning and support opportunities on offer around the UK. Make sure you ask your healthcare professional about the options available to you.