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.

Take control: attend a free diabetes course 

Diabetes education courses make living with diabetes easier. Whether you have Type 1 diabetes or Type 2 diabetes, it can feel like there is a lot to learn. But going on a course can help you understand what diabetes is and how it affects your body.

People who have been on a course feel more confident about looking after their
condition and are less likely to suffer complications. In fact, attending a course is one of the 15 Healthcare Essentials, the essential health checks and services that everyone with diabetes should be getting from their healthcare team every year.

The courses are friendly and welcoming. They give you the chance to ask questions and meet people who are going through the same experience as you.

Everyone in the UK with diabetes should be offered a free diabetes course by their doctor, nurse or consultant. Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have had diabetes for a while, make sure you ask for a referral to a course.

Hear from other people with diabetes who have gone on a course.

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.

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. You can share experiences with other people with diabetes and ask as many questions as you like.

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

  • DAFNE: for people with Type 1 diabetes. Learn how to estimate the carbohydrates in each meal and inject the right dose of insulin, so you can fit diabetes into your own lifestyle
  • DESMOND: for people with Type 2 diabetes. Helps you understand your diabetes, make food choices and take control.
  • X-PERT Diabetes Programme: for people with Type 2 diabetes. Explore how diabetes affects your body and how lifestyle changes can help you manage your diabetes.

There are also a number of locally based courses – 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.

Malcolm attended a DESMOND course

Once I began to understand my diabetes my control got better and now it doesn’t stop me doing anything I want to do.

Malcolm, living with Type 2 diabetes


Time off work

Attending a course can be quite a big time commitment, and will often involve time off work. You may be entitled to time off to attend a course under the Equality Act. You can download our diabetes education Advocacy Pack (PDF, 83 KB) for more details.

It may also be helpful to explain the benefits of attending to your employer. 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 at managing 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.