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Boosting attendance of diabetes self-management education

By Katherine Calder, Senior Policy Officer at Diabetes UK

Diabetes education supports people to take control of their condition – and as a resultimproves health outcomes, reduces the onset of complications and is cost effective or even cost saving (PDF, 255KB). Yet uptake is woefully low, with only around two per cent of people newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and six per cent newly diagnosed with Type 2 recorded as attending courses.

Improving uptake of structured education is now a national priority. NHS England’s newCCG Improvement and Assessment Frameworkassesses CCGs on how many people newly diagnosed with diabetes attend courses in their area, with results published onMyNHS.

Part of the challenge is to improve data collection, not least as National Diabetes Audit (NDA) figures may under-report attendance at courses. A study by theYorkshire and the Humber Clinical Network, which requested data directly from Type 2 education providers, found that attendance at structured education in the region averaged 28 per cent of people newly diagnosed – nearly five times higher than reported in the NDA.

Nevertheless, even if we take under-reporting into account, it is clear that too many people with diabetes are missing out on potentially life-saving education.

Diabetes UK is urging people with diabetes to attend education courses through ourTaking Controlcampaign. But there are also some simple steps that commissioners can take to increase uptake:

  1. Review diabetes education provision to identify local priorities and barriers to uptake, consulting healthcare professionals (HCPs) and people with diabetes.
  2. Establish a robust service specification for education providers and stipulate KPIs, including referral, attendance and completion rates.
  3. Set ambitious but achievable targets, benchmarking against experiences in other areas. For example,Bexley CCGachieved its target of reaching 50 per cent of people with Type 2 diabetes who were in the first year of diagnosis.
  4. Offer a menu of education options, including ‘structured’ courses and less formal, ongoing support – such as peer support and online learning. Diabetes UK’sTower HamletsandSouth Worcestershirebright idea resources explore how other CCGs have achieved this.
  5. Offer courses in a range of venues in the community and at a range of times; consult people with diabetes to identify what works for the local population.
  6. Plan effective internal and external communications, promoting courses both to HCPs (to improve the quality of their referral) and directly to people with diabetes. 
  7. Make referrals easier by using an electronic referral form and allowing self-referrals.
  8. Promote and train HCPs incollaborative care planningto empower patients and identify self-management education needs.

Diabetes UK suggests the following targets to improve local education provision:

  • Ensure that at least half of all people newly diagnosed with diabetes attend a structured education course within a year of diagnosis.
  • Reach those who have missed out in the past – so that at least half of people with diabetes receive structured education over the next five years.

Diabetes UK offers arange of resources to help commissioners, providers and healthcare professionals improve education for people with diabetes

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