Savefor later Page saved! You can go back to this later in your Diabetes and Me Close

Diabetes can’t wait: Pandemic adding to challenges of living with diabetes

  • Over half of people we surveyed said they had difficulties managing their diabetes during the pandemic.
  • A quarter of people who responded had an appointment relating to their diabetes cancelled since March 2020. These have still not taken place.
  • Just under half of people who responded (42%) said they experienced poor mental health because of their diabetes during the pandemic
  • Diabetes UK estimates there are 376,000 people in Northern Ireland at increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

A photograph of the front of Stormont, Northern Ireland's parliament building, a large white building with green lawn on either side

Diabetes can't wait

The coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on the challenges faced by people living with diabetes, Diabetes UK has warned today. 

We recently carried out a survey for people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in Northern Ireland. Over half of people who responded (53.5%) had problems managing their diabetes during the pandemic.

Today (16 November 2021), Diabetes UK Northern Ireland is launching its new report, Diabetes Is Serious. Our report is to make sure that all types of diabetes are on the health agenda as we plan our way out of the pandemic and address the serious reality of this relentless condition. 

There are over 104,000 people living with diabetes in Northern Ireland. An estimated 376,000 further people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It needs constant self-management, and people with diabetes are also entitled to important health checks, tests and support from healthcare professionals to reduce the risk of complications.

But, our survey tells us that a quarter of people who responded had a consultation relating to their diabetes cancelled since March 2020. These appointments have still not taken place. Two thirds of people who responded also told us that anxiety, worry or stress caused by the pandemic also made managing their diabetes hard.

Our survey also told us:

  • Over half (58%) of those who responded had not had their HbA1c check since the beginning of the pandemic. HbA1c is a blood test that shows a person’s average blood glucose for the last two to three months. It's important to have this checked to help with management and reducing risk of diabetes-related complications.
  • For those who have access to diabetes technology, 84% agreed this technology helped them manage their condition during the pandemic.
  • Just under half (42%) said they experienced poor mental health because of their diabetes during the pandemic. Most said that lack of access to care and support from their diabetes healthcare team as the reason.

Diabetes UK Northern Ireland recognises the incredible work of the Health Service over the last 18 months to keep us all safe and well. We know that there have been many strides forward in diabetes care and prevention in recent years. As the Health Service recovers from the pandemic, now is the time for the Health Minister to build on this progress and prioritise the health of people living with diabetes, and those at risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Tina McCrossan, National Director at Diabetes UK Northern Ireland, said: “Our recent survey has told us that the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges that come with living with this relentless condition. We cannot ignore the prevalence of diabetes in Northern Ireland and the impact that self-managing this condition, especially during the pandemic, has had both physically and emotionally on people.

“We estimate that there are approximately 376,000 people at risk of type 2 diabetes in Northern Ireland. Every cancelled appointment is a missed opportunity to diagnose this serious condition or have an early intervention to help stave off costly complications in all types of diabetes.

"Every cancelled appointment is a missed opportunity to diagnose this serious condition or have an early intervention to help stave off costly complications in all types of diabetes."

“Healthcare professionals are working hard to clear the backlog of cancelled routine health checks, appointments and referrals and we are very grateful to them. The Department of Health and all associated bodies need to address and solve workforce issues as a matter of urgency. They also need to develop and put in place diabetes pathways that deliver the best possible outcomes in diabetes care. 

“Northern Ireland needs a process to look at how effective our diabetes care is, like the National Diabetes Audit. This would show us what is working and what needs further investment. Five years on from the Diabetes Strategic Framework, we are still waiting for this to happen.

“As we recover from the pandemic, diabetes is a condition that needs real investment and prioritisation. Diabetes is a rapidly growing health crisis but there are opportunities to change this. Under direction from the Health Minister and delivery through the Diabetes Network for Northern Ireland, we must invest in what has been working and improve access to diabetes care for the growing diabetes population in Northern Ireland.”

Getting a shock diagnosis

Former Education Minister, Peter Weir, MLA for Strangford, received a shock diagnosis following what he thought was a minor cut on his foot.

Peter said, "It all started with a small cut on one of my toes. Little did I know what would lie ahead just days later. I was diagnosed with diabetes and after a short stay at the Ulster Hospital, I was sent to the Royal Victoria Hospital to have a toe amputated and infected tissue removed. I am grateful to everyone who looked after me during this time and to those who will continue to look after me as I learn to manage my diabetes.

"In hindsight, I neglected symptoms, made excuses and didn’t speak to my GP. Early intervention is so important. In my case, although I don’t know how long I had diabetes before I was diagnosed, I do know that the fast, early intervention by my podiatrist made a huge difference to the outcome. These early interventions are crucial in keeping ahead of diabetes and the complications it can visit upon you."

With the right education, and access to timely care and support, people with diabetes can live healthy lives

But without it, diabetes can lead to serious complications like amputations, strokes, and heart attacks. The time is now to make the changes needed to delay or prevent diabetes, where possible, and support those living with all types of diabetes to live well with their condition.

Brand Icons/Telephone check - FontAwesome icons/tick icons/uk