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Coronavirus – what we’re doing

UPDATED 14 MAY: As the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak continues to impact on all of our lives, we want you to know what we’ve been doing to support and represent people living with diabetes. 

At Diabetes UK, we’re constantly talking to the government, decision makers and health services across the UK to make sure people with diabetes and their families get the support they need. And it’s no different right now. 

This really is an unprecedented situation, and it’s changing all the time. That means we may not always have the answers you’re looking for – but we want you to know that we’re doing everything we can to get you the information and support you need, and that we’re raising your concerns, questions and issues at every opportunity with the relevant government departments and decision makers within the health system.

That's why we've launched a second survey, specifically on employment and diabetes. 

Take our short survey

For more information on how coronavirus could affect you, visit our guide to coronavirus and diabetes.

Listening to your concerns

Hearing from you helps us work even harder on your behalf. We ran a survey to find out people’s concerns and worries in relation to coronavirus. We heard from over 5,500 of you so thanks to everyone who shared their experiences with us. The key concerns you told us about were:

  • Difficulties getting food shopping delivery slots.
  • Leaving the home for work and being able to social distance in the workplace.
  • Unclear and conflicting information about the risks of coronavirus for people with diabetes.

We are acting on these issues and have started using your responses and experiences in our work.

We’ve recently launched a new, short coronavirus and employment survey to find out about any issues and concerns you have had since the UK Government guidance was announced on Sunday 10th May about easing restrictions. Please share any experiences you have had by responding to our survey.

This page covers the work we’ve been doing to address some of the key concerns you’ve been sharing with us over the last few weeks – we’ll continue to update it as this situation develops. 

Your concerns around not being in the shielding group

We know that the guidance around what people with diabetes should be doing to keep themselves safe and well has been confusing and inconsistent over the last few weeks. And lots of you have been asking why people with diabetes have not been included in the group of people categorised by the government as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, also known as the shielding group. 

Government advice recognises that people with diabetes can be more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with coronavirus, with diabetes listed as a condition in the ‘clinically vulnerable’ group. This means people with diabetes should be following stringent social distancing advice. However, it does not automatically place people with diabetes in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ or shielding group. 

While it is true that some people with diabetes may become seriously ill with coronavirus and need to be hospitalised, the available evidence does not demonstrate that all people with diabetes are at a significantly increased risk. 

We understand you’re worried about this advice and some of you have told us you think this advice is wrong. We want you to know what we’re doing to help. 

In response to the concerns you’ve raised, we have asked the NHS and others to look at the recent data available and to make an assessment, so we can learn more about the potential risks to people with diabetes and give you right advice. If the guidance changes based on the recent data, we’ll update you as soon as possible. 

In the meantime, you can read the full guidance on shielding, including information about what to do if you think you should be included in the shielding group, but have not received any communication from the government.

Your concerns about not being able to social distance at work

An overwhelming theme in the responses to the survey we conducted in April was concern about whether or not you should be going to work during this outbreak, as people with diabetes are being advised to be particularly careful in social distancing. 

We know you’re also concerned about how employers can support people with diabetes to work from home, or to stay safe at work.

To make sure your concerns were heard and addressed, we wrote to the Business Secretary on 15th April. We called on the government to urgently clarify the guidance for both employees and employers at this time and put the protection of workers in clinically vulnerable groups, such as those with diabetes, first.

Since then, the UK Government has announced new workplace guidance. It outlines the steps that employers have to take to ensure safe workplaces for their workers.

While this is a step forward, we need to understand whether this new guidance works for people with diabetes. We’ve recently launched a coronavirus and employment survey to give people a chance to tell us about any issues and concerns that they continue to face at work since the new guidance was announced. The responses will help us understand whether there are any gaps in the new workplace guidance. 

There are differences in guidance across the UK on easing restrictions, including on employment. We will be writing to ministers in the Scottish and Welsh Governments and Northern Ireland Executive in the coming days to ensure any guidance on this issue puts the needs and safety of people living with diabetes first.

There is more guidance on our guide to work and diabetes.

Staying well and eating well – buying food

Many of you have told us about the challenges you’re experiencing in accessing the right foods you need to manage your diabetes and stay well during this time. 

We are currently working with other charities to highlight to government and supermarkets the need for better support for people with diabetes, including priority delivery slots. 

Access to services

We know many of you will be worried about how best to manage your diabetes when your health services are being postponed and cancelled. 

We continue to work closely with NHS diabetes leads across the UK – both at national and local levels. And we’re working with them and with healthcare professionals to help diabetes services operate as effectively as possible during this time. We’re also working hard to make sure people living with diabetes, and those at risk of type 2 diabetes, are able to receive the care they need. 

Specifically:

  • We’ve been involved in the development of clinical guidance that sets out the important urgent and routine care people with diabetes need at this time 
  • We’re supporting the delivery of alternative ways for people at risk of type 2 diabetes to access the Diabetes Prevention Programme remotely using telephone or digital services
  • We’re supporting plans to speed up the delivery of online education courses for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, particularly now that face-to-face education courses are being postponed or cancelled

We’ve also prepared some tailored advice to support people with diabetes in staying at home, focusing on keeping well, eating well, and staying active. 

Learning about coronavirus through research

We need to know more about the risks of coronavirus to people with diabetes, and we need to know quickly. That’s why we’ve made £100,000 available for researchers to carry out urgent work to learn more about how the specific ways the virus affects people living with diabetes. We’re speeding up our usual funding processes so we can get this vital research started as soon as possible.

We’re here for you

Our services have faced unprecedented demand, but we’re doing everything we can to make sure everyone who needs our help gets it.

  • We’ve provided a listening ear to 500 to 600 people a day on our helpline, answering concerns about your diabetes management, about keeping safe and well while at home, and about accessing medication and food during lockdown. 
  • We’ve responded to around 775 emails, web-chats and social media posts each and every day, helping you to access the help and information you need. 
  • We’ve supported more than 20,000 of you through our 24/7 online forum, helping people with diabetes to feel less isolated, and offering peer-to-peer support.

This really is a challenging time for all of us. But our commitment to you is that we’re going to keep doing everything in our power to make sure the information you get is up-to-date and accurate, and that we’re taking your worries and concerns to the key decision makers and pressing them to make the right decisions to keep you safe and well. That’s why we want to keep hearing from you, and will keep listening and responding to the issues that are most important to you. 

If you need us, we’re here for you. Our helpline is here if you need to talk to us about any concerns or worries you have, and you can reach us on 0345 123 2399, or by emailing helpline@diabetes.org.uk. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 6pm, and we’re here to help. 

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