Laura Bull, who has type 1 diabetes, told us what she thought of DUKPC.
The thing that struck me most about this year’s Diabetes UK Professional Conference (DUKPC) is that I can finally see the progress being made in diabetes care. We’ve gone way beyond insulin regimes and treatment options now. We’re getting to the real nitty gritty bits of living with diabetes that previously HCPs haven’t had the tools to support us with.
Our healthcare professionals (HCPs) need to be a jack of all trades, like people with diabetes do. They need to be medically aware of how things like sex, ethnicity, gender, lifestyle, employment and diet to name a few, affect the lives of their patients, and try and give medically accurate, expert advice.
Which is wild when you think about it. So thank goodness for conferences like DUKPC where there are conversations happening about topics we don’t have all the answers on. This makes sure they’re still being kept at the front of everyone’s mind.
As I expected, there was a lot of diabetes and tech talk at the conference. There were some amazing wins in the form of revamped National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines to allow all type 1s access to continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and flash glucose monitoring. There was also discussion about how AI and digital technology is improving diabetes care, both in patients’ self-management and in helping HCPs make smarter decisions.
We also learnt about how we’re moving closer to pre-empting and preventing type 1 diabetes thanks to research on screening for type 1 and using stem cell to make beta cells. Regardless of whether you’re for or against screening, this is absolutely incredible progress. It feels like we’re closer than ever to understanding the nuances of how and why the bodies of type 1s destroy their beta cells. And closer to that all important cure.
Discussing hypo anxiety
There were also discussions about new ways to understand the impact of regular hypos on people with diabetes. Better understanding the impact of hypos on type 1 diabetics is important, and it’s patient centric.
The focus is no longer just on how much money can be saved by treating the mostly severe hypos, while ignoring the small everyday hypos. And really, people with diabetes know that the most distress is caused by those small hypos that happen over the course of the day. As one type 1 nurse speaking at the conference rightly pointed out, for most people with diabetes the absence of a hypo doesn’t mean the absence of anxiety surrounding having one.
To hear about the ways diabetes can interfere in our sex lives was news to me and from the sounds of it most HCPs attending this particular talk too. Did you know there are no courses to train our teams on how to spot (let alone treat) sexual dysfunction in people with diabetes? Yet, once treated all the patients who took part in the research were much happier and had a way better quality of life and average blood sugar levels.
Looking ahead in diabetes care
The future of diabetes is looking good. We’re finally starting to get our mental and physical health treated as one. It seems as though the easier technology makes diabetes treatment, the more room our specialist teams have to support us in other ways than just teaching how to flex our treatment regimes.
But for all the progress we’ve made, we’ve still got to keep an eye on the important stuff. While the announcement around wider tech access on the NHS was great, there’s still a long way to go before we can be sure everyone gets the technology and care they need.
One of the last talks I went to spoke of the disparity in care and access to technology for people with type 1 and type 2 from poorer backgrounds or ethnic minority communities.
The evidence is clear that there are unacceptable inequalities in diabetes care. While it’s great that we’ve started that conversation, we need to continue it, and I hope to see some solutions and improvements to the shocking gaps this research highlighted at the next DUKPC.
Attending the conference has just highlighted to me that our HCPs and specialist teams are only one step ahead of us, if that. They’re still trying to navigate these tricky subjects and questions they haven’t got answers for yet.
As a diabetic involved in the online community, I can really feel the shift over the last few years towards talking about the hard things – with and without our HCPS. So let’s keep doing this, whether we have the answers or not.
I’m Laura, I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for six years now. I live with my partner and guinea pigs in Essex and I love cooking plant-based dinners, practising yoga and throwing around heavy things at the gym.