"I want to make things better for people in a similar position," says Mark.
Living with diabetes is different for everyone. But we can all learn from one another’s experience. That’s a big reason why I became aDiabetes Voice. After 15 years of living with Type 1 diabetes, I know by giving my perspective and experience, I can help make things better for others in a similar position.
To take one example, I was recently told I needed to change the type of blood glucose monitor I was using. I was reluctant, having used this type of machine since my diagnosis when I was 13. But I was told that if I didn’t switch, I’d lose access to test strips.
I switched and got used to the new machine eventually, but it made me think ‘what if other people can’t get used to it?’ Surely people should at least have a choice.
That’s why when I find out about problems with diabetes care in my area, I try to do something to fix them. I know that there are likely are thousands of other people living with diabetes facing the same issues.
I’ve written several times to my MP and local healthcare authority about a few diabetes related issues, including our area’s high amputation rate. Its not fair that people living with diabetes near me should be at greater risk of losing a limb than someone living elsewhere in the country.
The replies you get are mixed of course, but my MP is always very supportive and has really engaged with diabetes issues since I got in touch. The leader of my local healthcare authority also pledged to raise the issue of diabetes-related amputation at their next major meeting.
The Diabetes Voices team let me know about opportunities to get involved in campaigns, but you can also check the performance of diabetes services in your area yourself by using the Diabetes Watch tool.
Through responding to surveys and providing feedback, I also have been able to make use of my experience of life with diabetes. Whether for the NHS, Diabetes UK or a local body, it is important those organisations delivering services for people living with diabetes understand what life with diabetes is like. And only we can tell them!
I work shifts in the retail industry, so I’m kept busy, but campaigning with Diabetes Voices fits in nicely with my schedule. Writing letters and responding to surveys doesn’t take too long so it works well for me.
Working with others
Campaigning doesn’t need to be a solo thing either: I’ve worked with Diabetes UK local groups in my area as well. By designing flyers and helping them promote events, I hope I’ve been able to spread the word about diabetes and so make their work more effective. There’s a range ofnew tools Diabetes UK local groups are using to campaign at the moment which I’d recommend.
I’ve learned campaigning for change takes time, and certainly campaigning for better diabetes care is not easy. But it is simple to get involved and the little things you can do can help a lot. In the end, MPs, healthcare authorities and charities like Diabetes UK are accountable to us, so if we want things to change, we, as people affected by diabetes, should let them know.