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Diabetes education: learning to look after your diabetes

Having diabetes doesn't have to rule your life. It can feel overwhelming, but no matter how long since your diagnosis, you can benefit from support and information. It’ll help you manage your diabetes, so it's easier to live with and reduces your risk of developing complications. Ask your doctor or nurse about free diabetes education courses.

People who go on these courses often feel more confident about managing their diabetes, making healthier food choices, looking after themselves and meeting other people with diabetes. If you're supporting someone with diabetes, you can usually go along on a face-to-face course with them.

Examples of courses for type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes are:

  • DESMOND, for people living with type 2 diabetes. DESMOND stands for Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed
  • X-PERT for people living with type 2 diabetes
  • DAFNE for people living with type 1 diabetes
  • How to prevent diabetes courses for people at high risk of type 2 diabetes.

These courses are friendly and informal. You can learn face-to-face or online. There may be other diabetes education courses in your local area. 

We've got information about the main types of face-to-face courses you can go to and what to do if you need to get time off work. There's also information about online courses and our online platform Learning Zone.

How to get on a course

Everyone in the UK with diabetes should be offered a free diabetes course by their doctor, nurse or consultant. Courses aren't just for people who are newly diagnosed. You can ask to go on a course however long you've had diabetes. There are also courses for people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So do ask your GP or healthcare team what's available in your area. 

Learning to help your child

This page does not cover education for children and young people with diabetes. For children, young adults and families we offer Diabetes UK Type 1 Events run across the UK, which should be back in the autumn. And there is even a course teaching parents to carb count on our Learning Zone. We also have lots of useful information on our Children and diabetes section.  

"Going on a Desmond course for type 2 diabetes made a complete difference. I began to lose weight. I began to get my blood sugar levels down to where they should be, my cholesterol levels began to come down as well and I felt much more confident in myself that I could manage my diabetes. I began to feel my life was beginning to return to normal."

Malcolm Bigg, who did the course 4 years after being diagnosed 

Going on DAFNE has taken the guesswork out of diabetes. I found out how to take the correct does of insulin which has had a huge effect in terms of better control and greatly reduced hypos. To be honest, I just expected to meet some other diabetics and pick up a few tips. 

Graham Freer, who has type 1.5 diabetes and went on the course 20 years after diagnosis.

Face-to-face courses

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some face to face courses were cancelled or changed to online. So check with your healthcare professional what's available.

Most courses are for small groups of ten people or fewer, and sometimes you’ll be able to bring a carer, partner or friend along with you. Sessions are usually led by nurses, dietitians or trained peers or educators.

There are specific courses for people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Courses last anywhere from half a day to one day or a couple of hours for six weeks, or up to five days. But you may be able to ask for time off work rather than taking holiday.  

Trained healthcare professionals will give you diabetes and lifestyle information and the practical skills you need to self-manage your diabetes. You’ll learn about diabetes and glucose, health changes, monitoring and medications, and how to make good food choices and stay active.

The courses are informal, friendly and non-judgemental – there’ll be no pressure on you to speak up if you don’t want to. You can share experiences with other people with diabetes and ask as many questions as you like.

Main types of face-to-face courses

Your diabetes healthcare team should be able to tell you what is available locally. The course may have one of the following names or be called by a local name. 

DESMOND – type 2 diabetes course

This one day course for people with type 2 diabetes is sometimes offered over two half days and gives you six hours' education. 

DESMOND stands for Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed. It will help you understand your diabetes, make food choices and take control of your blood glucose levels. 


X-PERT Diabetes Programme – type 2 diabetes course

This course for people with type 2 diabetes is usually run in two and a half hour sessions over six weeks, with a follow up session every year. 

You’ll learn how diabetes affects your body and how lifestyle changes can help you manage your condition. 


How to prevent diabetes courses – high risk of type 2

Speak to your doctor or nurse to find out if there are prevention courses running in your area.   

DAFNE – type 1 diabetes course

This is a five day course for people with type 1 diabetes. Don’t let the length of the course put you off. You may be able to ask for time off work. 

DAFNE stands for Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating. You’ll learn how to estimate the carbohydrates in each meal and inject the right dose of insulin, so you can fit diabetes into your own lifestyle. 


Online education courses 

BERTIE – type 1 diabetes course – no referral needed

The online BERTIE course is for people living with type 1 diabetes. It helps you understand and manage your diabetes in a way that’s right for you. You can simply register on the website and start the course.

Healthy living for people with type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes and live in England, there's a new online education programme from the NHS called Healthy Living for people with type 2 diabetes.

Other online courses

There may be other online courses available in your area that you can ask to be signed up to. Ask your GP or healthcare professional for more information. 

Learning Zone

Our  online education service Learning Zone is there to help you if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes or are supporting others who have the condition. It isn’t a replacement for an education course but the information is from our clinical team.

But if you can’t get onto an education course because of work or other commitments but you want to know more than Learning Zone is perfect. It's also useful for family and friends who are supporting you.

You’ll find practical advice from the experts and tips from people who have been there too – along with easy food swap, and ideas for getting active at home. 

Time off work

Going on a face-to-face course may mean you need to take time off work. You may be entitled to time off without taking holiday under the Equality Act.

Use our template letter (Word, 16KB) to write to your employer.

It may help to explain the benefits of attending to your employer. You can explain that if you do the course you’ll be less likely to take time off sick in the long run, as you’ll be better at managing your diabetes and so will reduce your risk of complications.

Some course providers, such as DAFNE, can provide materials to give to your employer about the benefits of going on a course. Your healthcare professional may also be able to write to your employer to support your case.

If you are unable to take time off work, ask your healthcare professional about evening and weekend options, and check out the sources of informal & online learning and support listed below.

We've got loads more information about work and diabetes.

Other support

We are here to support you. If you want to talk to someone, call our Helpline to speak to one of our trained counsellor or use our online forum. You can also join a Diabetes UK local support group to meet and share experiences with others. And also order free resources to help you manage your diabetes and live a healthy life from our online shop.

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