You may be in a situation where you need to go into hospital or to a clinic. This may be for something related to your diabetes, like an appointment to treat an existing problem, a routine check, or you might spot something new. Or it may be something unrelated to your diabetes, like an illness or injury.
Many routine appointments for annual diabetes reviews have been delayed or postponed. Don't worry, your diabetes team will send you an appointment when these are up and running again. If it's been more than a year since you're last review, contact your healthcare team.
But if you're already having treatment for something like a foot problem or for eye treatment, and you don't have coronavirus symptoms, then your clinic appointments should still carry on. If you're worried about going to your clinic or hospital at this time or want to check whether your appointment is still going ahead, call the number on your appointment letter.
Whether it's a booked appointment or you need to go to A&E for an emergency, the NHS is still open for you.
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, your care in hospital may be a little different to normal, for example, not seeing all your usual diabetes team or not having family with you when you go into hospital. And when you arrive you might be asked to wait somewhere to maintain social distancing. For any problem, regardless of the current COVID-19 pandemic, you should access your local hospital as you would have done before.
When you get to the hospital, tell someone straight away that you have diabetes. This is so staff at the hospital can give you the right care – both physically and emotionally. Getting good care in hospital is one of your 15 Healthcare Essentials, and this is all about working with the healthcare professionals to help them understand what you need. Talk to them if you’re worried about anything.
Remember, if it’s a medical emergency and you need to call an ambulance, dial 999.
You may want to share this information with a family member or friend, so they can be prepared too.
If you need to stay over in hospital (inpatient)
Here’s a handy checklist of what to take to hospital if you need to stay overnight as an inpatient. Don’t worry if you forget some of these, especially if you’re leaving home in an emergency. Tell the hospital staff you have diabetes and let them know what you need to stay well – or ask a family member or friend to let them know.
- Medication – diabetes meds and anything else you take, for example blood pressure tablets.
- Equipment – like your glucose monitor and sensors, or spare needles if you inject.
- Hypo treatments.
- Important numbers – take your phone and a charger.
- Things to pass the time – like a magazine or a book.
Managing your diabetes in hospital
If you are very ill and unable to look after yourself, the staff at the hospital will manage your diabetes as well as any other health issues you have. The more information they have, the easier this will be – so make sure family members or friends know how you manage your diabetes. You might want to write this down for them or share the link to the page. Or download and print our Hospital stays and diabetes - information sheet (PDF, 70KB).
If you are well enough, there are things you can do to help keep yourself well while you’re in hospital.
One of the first things you might notice is that your blood sugar levels may be higher or lower than normal. This could be because you’re ill, feeling stressed and or because you’re not being very active. If you usually check your blood sugar levels, you may need to do this more often and adjust your treatment. If you’re checking your blood sugars and notice them going high, let the staff know so they are aware.
If you don’t usually check your blood sugar levels, the staff at the hospital may check them for you as part of your care when you are unwell.
If you’re at risk of hypos, make sure you take your hypo treatment with you when you go in and let the staff know that you might need to eat to avoid having a hypo. If you have to be ‘nil by mouth’ before an operation, speak with the staff to agree how best to manage a hypo.
If you use certain diabetes equipment, take this with you. This could be your blood-testing kit, pump supplies and needles – they probably won't be able to provide supplies for your pump. It is a good idea to label them with your name to reduce the chances of them going missing or being thrown away. And take your medication with you too. This is so the team looking after you know what you need to take and when. But if you don’t have what you need, the hospital will give you the medication you normally use. If you’re managing your diabetes yourself, let them know when you’ve taken your medicines or insulin so they can keep a record of the time and dose. Depending on what medicines you’re on, your healthcare team may suggest the dose needs to change or to stop taking something.
If you need help choosing meals and snacks, the staff can help you and also make sure medications correspond with meal times if needed.
Remember that while you’re in hospital, it’s still important to check your feet regularly. Ask the healthcare team to help you if you need to.
The ward staff will need to involve the diabetes team in your care while you’re in hospital and to make sure you’re ready for when you are discharged. It’s important you know things like your sick day rules – which are steps to take if you get ill for any reason and help you manage your diabetes when you’re sick.