Diabetes sufferers 'not being supported'

NEARLY 1,500 people in East Anglia may not be receiving enough support to manage their diabetes, causing them to unnecessarily call the emergency services for help.

NEARLY 1,500 people in East Anglia may not be receiving enough support to manage their diabetes, causing them to unnecessarily call the emergency services for help.

A study of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust shows that 85% of its 2,256 diabetes-related emergency call outs were for hypoglycaemia - a diabetic attack.

But almost two thirds of all people who made the emergency calls between April 2004 and March 2005 said they had not received specific education on managing hypoglycaemia in the last year.

The research was conducted for Diabetes UK and has prompted the charity to call for major improvements in diabetes services, particularly for older people.

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More than half the diabetes-related call-outs received by the East Anglian Ambulance Trust (EAAT) were from older people.

Tracy Slater, eastern regional manager for Diabetes UK, said if people were not able to get advice on how to manage the condition it could lead to avoidable hypoglycaemic attacks, unnecessary emergency calls and beds in hospitals being used needlessly.

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“As 95% of diabetes care is self care, it is vitally important that people with diabetes learn to manage their condition as effectively as possible,” she said.

“It is therefore essential all people with diabetes, regardless of their age, where they live or how long they have had diabetes, have access to ongoing structured patient education in diabetes - in a format appropriate to them - to help them manage their condition seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“Although some provision is being made to provide education for those newly diagnosed with diabetes within the eastern region, it is often the older members of our community who are forgotten about and who need to rely on the emergency services when their treatment does not go to plan.”

A spokesman for the EAAT said there needs to be greater awareness among diabetics of how to identify the onset of a problem, and it is working with the health network to try to move this forward.

He added: “The study suggests that many diabetic patients are either not receiving or not retaining the education they require and are not able to sufficiently control their diabetes or self treat when suffering a diabetic attack.”

The government has identified, as a priority for the NHS, structured education to support diabetics so they can care for themselves.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) said its centre provides help for diabetic patients, it has a website providing information and health workers in the community work together to help patients with diabetes.

“We run education programmes for patients to empower people with long-term conditions, like diabetes, to manage their own condition and lead a normal lifestyle.”

However she added: “It is down to the patient to make contact with these services.”

Dr Amanda Jones, the director of public health for Suffolk Coastal PCT, said structured education for new patients with type two diabetes in the east of the county has been available through a national pilot.

Although this has now finished, PCTs have been working to ensure patients still have access to the information.

Both Colchester and Tendring PCTs are in the middle of a year-long pilot project designed to help people in north east Essex with diabetes look after themselves more effectively.

A total of 2,500 adults in Colchester, Tendring and the Colne Valley are taking part in the trial and, if successful, it is hoped a personal handbook will be given to all 12,000 adults with diabetes in the area.

A spokesman for Colchester PCT said: “There is a partnership between the patient and health carers to enable to majority of patients to self-manage their condition and give them more confidence. However, patients have also got a responsibility to themselves.”

A specialist diabetes centre will be part of the new Colchester primary care centre, due to open this spring.

A spokesman for Tendring PCT said it had held special sessions for patients which had given “great results” and more were planned.

“These have dealt with problems, such as managing hypoglycaemia, and have been very popular,” he said. “In the long-term it also relieves pressure on NHS resources.”

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