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Diabetes UK Cymru calls for access to diabetes psychology across Wales

To mark Diabetes Week (13th to 19th June), Diabetes UK Cymru is launching a campaign to highlight the inequalities faced by many living with diabetes when accessing psychology services.

In some areas, people living with diabetes do not have access to psychological support and they either have to wait years or are referred to services that are not specialised in diabetes. 

We're therefore proposing that a new model of support should be provided to everyone living with diabetes in Wales.

So we're endorsing From Missing to Mainstream” – A Values-Based Action Plan for Diabetes Psychology in Wales” by Consultant Clinical Psychologist (Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board) and Diabetes UK Clinical Champion, Dr Rose Stewart.

Diabetes UK Cymru is hosting a Senedd event to launch this report and campaign. Speakers will include the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle MS, and the event is sponsored by the Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Mid Wales, James Evans MS. The event takes place at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff on 15th June at 8.30 am.

Dr Rose Stewart said: 

“Managing diabetes is relentless, demanding, and complex. People living with diabetes have higher levels of psychological issues such as anxiety and depression as well as diabetes-related disordered eating (diabulimia), diabetes distress, and burnout.

We are proposing that diabetes psychology should become mainstream. It should be embedded in routine care, accessible and flexible so that people living with diabetes feel supported in managing their condition wherever they live.”  

Poet and rapper, Duke Al Durham, a supporter of the charity will talk about his experience of living with type 1 diabetes and mental health issues, including OCD, and read his poem “Burn Out” at the Senedd event.  

Young mum with type 1 diabetes resorts to paying for private psychotherapy  

We heard from Ebony Hussey, 30, from Caldicot, who lives with type 1 diabetes and has suffered loss of sight in one eye, as a complication of her condition. This and other struggles associated with diabetes, juggling two young children, and work have affected her mental health. She has resorted to paying for private therapy since she’s unable to get access to a psychologist on the NHS.

She said: “Diabetes is overwhelming and exhausting. I also suffered further complications due to my condition as some people do even when they are young. That’s why I decided to get CBT therapy privately. I was never offered any psychological help. It’s all focused on stats: if your blood sugar levels are good, then you are left to get on with it”.

Diabetes UK Cymru’s National Director, Rachel Burr said: “Psychological support has been missing from diabetes services for too long to the detriment of those living with diabetes, their families, and the care teams who support them, and the Covid-19 pandemic only made matters worse.

"Diabetes is serious, affecting 1 in 13 people in Wales, and the demands of living with diabetes can be extremely tough. It impacts every aspect of a person’s life. Access to psychological support in Wales is either non-existent, patchy, disjointed, underfunded, understaffed, or a postcode lottery. That has to change.”  

From Missing to Mainstream: addressing the growing demand for diabetes psychology  

The need for psychological services was recognised in the Welsh Government's most recent Diabetes Delivery Plan (2016 to 2021), which estimated that41% of people living with diabetes in Wales are believed to have poor psychological wellbeing.  

The “From Missing to Mainstream” campaign builds on the “Too often missing.  Making emotional and psychological routine in diabetes care” (PDF) report published in 2019.  

Of those surveyed then who had felt they needed specialist care from a mental health professional, 7 in 10 couldn’t access it.  

NHS Wales currently sets itself no measurable targets for how much psychological support is delivered to those with long-term conditions. The amount of service delivered across the country also varies hugely. 

Many of the services that provide psychological support are already at breaking point and in desperate need of more resources. We are waiting for Quality Statements and accompanying action plans to be published. These will set out what's expected in psychological support for diabetes. They cannot come soon enough. 

Diabetes UK Cymru aims to relaunch this campaign and gather further data on the impact of the lack of psychological support on people living with diabetes.  

Dr Rose Stewart’s report was commissioned by the All Wales Diabetes Implementation Group. This brings together diabetes specialist doctors and nurses, NHS managers, the third sector, and other stakeholders in consultation with patients.

The 'From Missing to Mainstream: Diabetes Psychology in Wales' event will take place on Wed 15 Jun 2022 at 08:30. You can get tickets and find out more via Eventbrite.

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