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Parents of children with diabetes forced to give up work

Half (46 per cent) of primary school pupils with Type 1 diabetes, and a third (29 per cent) of their secondary school counterparts, report their parents have had to reduce hours or give up work to help them administer life-saving insulin injections, according to a new report released today by Diabetes UK.

School staff lack training

The 'State of diabetes care in the UK 2009' report surveyed 661 children and young people with Type 1 diabetes and also revealed two thirds (65 per cent) of the primary school pupils questioned, and four fifths (87 per cent) of the secondary school pupils, think school staff do not have enough training in diabetes, which is vital in minimising risks to a pupil’s health and in ensuring a full school life.

Misjudged doses of insulin injections can result in hypoglycaemic episodes, known as ‘hypos’, brought on by low blood glucose levels, and missed injections can result in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), caused by high blood glucose levels. Both hypos and DKA can lead to unconsciousness and hospitalisation if left untreated, and DKA in particular can prove fatal in extreme cases. If Type 1 diabetes is not managed effectively, there is also much greater increased risk of long term complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputation.

Correct support is vital 

“It is completely unacceptable that parents of children with diabetes are forced to forfeit their careers and risk financial hardship because of medical policy failings in schools. It is vital pupils have the correct support to control their condition within the school setting if they are to protect their short- and long-term health", said Diabetes UK Chief Executive, Douglas Smallwood.

“The recent tragic death of Stockport pupil Sam Linton, who had asthma, illustrates the urgent need for the new Government to address the long-standing failings in support of children with long-term medical conditions in UK schools. There is currently a postcode lottery with regard to effective partnerships between schools, local authorities and primary care organisations. There are pockets of good practice but this must spread throughout the country to avoid children’s health, quality of life and education being irreparably damaged”, he said.

Recognise pupils with diabetes as vulnerable

Diabetes UK is concerned that without a statutory duty on schools and PCTs, adequate support and full inclusion for pupils with diabetes and other long-term conditions will remain a lottery. The charity is calling on the new Government to ensure children with diabetes are recognised as a vulnerable group, and that appropriate support is provided by fully trained staff. The revised ‘Managing Medicines in Schools and Early Years Settings’ document must be published as soon as possible and sent to all schools in hard copy.

The pupil health and well-being agenda needs to include support for children with health conditions so they can manage their condition at school effectively, whilst Ofsted must routinely inspect whether schools have clear medications policies and procedures in place. In 2007 Asthma UK, The Anaphylaxis Campaign, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Diabetes UK, Epilepsy Action and the Long-Term Conditions Alliance produced a resource for schools – Medical Conditions at School: Policy Pack – which aims to help them create a safe environment for children living with a medical condition. A new website was launched for the Medical Conditions at School resources in March 2008, 

There are 20,000 children under the age of 15 with Type 1 diabetes in the UK and it is estimated that 2,000 children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year in the UK. A 2008 Diabetes UK survey of primary schools in England found that 52 per cent of schools have children with diabetes yet 70 per cent of these schools said parents had to come in to administer insulin. Of schools that have children with diabetes 42 per cent did not have a policy advising staff how to supervise Blood Glucose Monitoring (BGM), 48 per cent did not have a policy advising staff how to carry out BGM, 41 per cent did not have a policy advising staff how to supervise medication and 59 per cent did not have a policy advising staff how to give medication.

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