"When you're diganosed with Type 2 diabetes, you can feel overwhelemed. Meeting others in a similar situation and getting support is incredibly empowering."
Gerry McCabe was a newly qualified GP when his practice asked him to take over the running of the Type 2 diabetes clinic. That was 15 years ago and he says a lot has changed, including seeing more patients than ever before.
“I used to see every patient with Type 2 diabetes and I knew them all by name but now that’s impossible because we have so many patients with the condition. It’s sad but not a total surprise. We see a real mixture of people, from those who are overweight and have a genetic link to diabetes to those who are slim, fit and healthy. It’s this last group that often take it the hardest – they feel devastated and have a real sense of failure. I try to console them by saying, ‘well you would have had it five years ago if you hadn’t looked after yourself so well’.”
While Dr McCabe has helped to redesign the diabetes service in his local area, as a GP with East and North Hertfordshire CCG, he believes there is still much that could be done to help people, especially when they are first diagnosed.
“I was speaking about diabetes at an event the other night and there was a woman in her sixties sitting at the front. She was in floods of tears because she had just been diagnosed with Type 2 and she said, ‘I just feel lost’. She had seen her GP twice but just felt overwhelmed. She’s now getting help and advice through Diabetes UK but her situation is not unusual.”
Dr McCabe got involved with referring patients to the Type 2 Together programme after hearing about the new support group being set-up by Diabetes UK.
“Early engagement and education is key when it comes to Type 2 diabetes. It is a serious condition and I want my patients to understand that, but there is a lot they can do to help control their symptoms and live a better life. It doesn’t help that there is a great deal of confusion out there and an element of ‘head-in-the-sand’. When we recently went to a local supermarket to offer free blood sugar testing people were going the other way to avoid us.”
Dr McCabe says he’s hopeful that groups like Type 2 Together, where people with diabetes talk and support others, will spread across the country.
“If you have diabetes you might see a health professional for only four hours over the course of year but you are having to deal with that condition day-in, day-out. For people to have somewhere to go where they can meet others who are in a similar situation and get support is incredibly empowering – it helps them take back control of their lives.”