Professor Kevin Hardy has been a key part of the local group for over a quarter of a century, supporting people with diabetes across the region.
When the St Helens and District Diabetes UK group first invited their new diabetes consultant to a group meeting in late 1995, Professor Hardy wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Professor Hardy, 61, said: “When I started as the sole consultant in diabetes in St Helens and Knowsley, I was delighted to be greeted by a thriving local group keen to share the views and aspirations of local people with diabetes.
My first St Helens branch meeting was in the local Town Hall on a bitterly cold November evening. Experience had taught me that people patiently sat through presenters’ talks, but that it was the questions they really relished, so I dispensed with a talk and moved straight to two hours of questions. It was great! Afterwards we had tea and biscuits and a queue of people formed to ask yet more questions. I went home buzzing.”
Since then he has been a key part of the group, offering regular advice and support along with an annual catch up with members.
Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. If not managed well, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications but with the right treatment, knowledge and support people living with diabetes can lead a long, full and healthy life.
Cherry Bowmaker, a member of the group for many years said: “Our group has been active since the 1980s, and we still have our programme cards dating back to 1983! Professor Kevin Hardy has been our President since 1998 and he did his first talk at one of our meetings on 1st Nov 1995.
“Professor Hardy has a great enthusiasm when talking about diabetes. He is an incredible support to our group and we are extremely grateful to him.”
For people living with diabetes, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a particularly difficult time. However the group and Professor Hardy have continued to offer support. The group quickly moved their monthly meetings onto Zoom during lockdown and Professor Hardy has provided up-to-date information through regular video updates on Diabetes UK’s ‘Your Friend’s in the North’ Facebook group.
Professor Hardy added: “If we’re to improve the health and wellbeing of people with diabetes at scale, then we must have organised care, guidelines and systems and processes. But care isn’t about those things – it’s about people, it’s about human contact, it’s about a kind word, it’s about taking a weight of someone’s mind and our local support group, like similar groups across the land, does just that. It provides comfort, support, friendship and safe harbour to people in times of need.”
Clare Howarth, Head of the North of England at Diabetes UK said: “Diabetes can feel relentless and having the support of other people living with diabetes, who know exactly what you’re going through is hugely important.
“It’s wonderful to see the relationship Kevin has with the St Helens group and we’re incredibly grateful for all the years of support Kevin has offered to not just the group but everyone affected by diabetes in the local community.”