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Diabetes UK Chief Executive speaks in House of Lords on diabetes education

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Diabetes UK Chief Executive Baroness Barbara Young took part in a House of Lords debate about the poor delivery of diabetes education.Barbara, who is a member of the House of Lords, called on the Government and local health leaders to ensure that everyone with diabetes has access to diabetes education and support to help them manage their condition effectively.This is because, for the vast majority of the time, people with diabetes have to manage their condition themselves and only see their healthcare professionals an average of three hours a year. There is also strong evidence that giving people the skills to manage their diabetes effectively can significantly improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of developing complications.Poor management of diabetes can increase an individual’s risk of complications such as blindness, amputations and stoke. These complications are not only personally devastating, they are also extremely costly to the health service. The NHS spends £10 billion annually on diabetes, 80 per cent of which is spent on treating potentially avoidable complications.Despite this, just 16 per cent of people newly diagnosed with diabetes are offered access to a formal course covering how to effectively manage their condition. And only three per cent of people newly diagnosed with diabetes actually attended one. Speaking in the Lords debate, Baroness Young said: “Diabetes is a very serious and expensive condition, affecting 3.9 million people and their families in the UK—a figure that continues to rise. Diabetes impacts not only on people but also on the NHS. Fundamental to this is that people with diabetes need to be supported and educated about their condition, so that they are engaged and encouraged to manage it effectively and reduce the risk of complications, for both their own good and that of the NHS.”Speaking about why many people with diabetes are not offered the opportunity to attend a diabetes education course or don’t take up the offer, Barbara added: “The up-front cost of the programmes is a disincentive to commission sufficient education, and there are just not enough programmes around. Commissioners are concerned about short-term costs rather than seeing the longer-term savings that would result.“Offering programmes is only one issue; take-up is the other. People with diabetes are not always told when they are diagnosed just how serious their condition is. Education is also not taken up because sometimes it is provided in a rather traditional, inflexible way—perhaps at the wrong time, at the wrong place, in too long a period that results in people having to take time off work, in the wrong language, or in the wrong culture. We have to press the commissioners and the providers to look at new ways of providing that vital education, using new technology, online opportunities, peer learning groups, lay educators, flexible times and locations.”In response, Lord Prior, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health, said: “The NICE quality standard for diabetes sets out that people with diabetes should receive a structured educational programme as this is key to ensuring that they are able to manage their condition as successfully as possible. Sixteen per cent of people newly diagnosed with diabetes were offered structured education in 2012-13, compared with 8.4 per cent of those diagnosed in 2009, so there is improvement but from a very low base. In the same period, the number of people newly diagnosed with diabetes offered or attending structured education rose from 11per cent to 18.4 per cent. I can only agree with noble Lords and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that that is still far too low and that we must do more to increase that take-up. “The Government are fully committed to combating and preventing diabetes. I hope I have demonstrated that we are working hard—although we are by no means fully satisfied yet with our results—not only to ensure that those who have diabetes are empowered to manage their condition as effectively as possible, but that those who are at risk of diabetes are given the tools, knowledge and support they need to reduce their chances of developing it.”

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