Diabetes patients should be referred by their GPs to structured education courses to help them better understand and self-manage their condition.
That’s the message from a group of diabetes specialists who have been discussing ways to improve support for people with diabetes in the UK.
Speakers at the first all party parliamentary group (APPG) meeting for diabetes this week urged GPs to refer more diabetic patients to education services and said a nationally-standardised structured education system was vital for improving diabetes care, after it was revealed “too few” patients were being given the necessary skills to effectively control their condition.
Data from the National Diabetes Audit 2011/12, released last year, showed only 5% of diabetes patients were referred to a structured education programme during that 12-month period, and of those, just 1% took up the programme.
Dr Trudi Deaki, CE and founder of the diabetes education course X-PERT Health, blamed the lack of referrals on a “lack of awareness” of the benefits of structured education in both general practice and primary care.
She said: “They’re seen as an optional extra, rather than an integral part of diabetes treatment and management. When people are offered it and it’s introduced in a positive light, they do tend to take it up.”
The experts added the label ‘education’ deters patients by making them seem ‘optional’ or “like going back to school”. They suggested re-branding and promoting the services as ‘essential training’ which forms part of the normal, ongoing treatment for diabetes.
But Dr David Payto, RCGP clinical lead for commissioning, warned that increasing self-care support for diabetes patients would require a ‘huge amount of training’ for general practice, which might not be feasible, and that focusing on structured diabetes education ignores the fact that most affected patients are likely to have co-morbidities.
“The evidence we’ve got is that, of the people with diabetes, less than 15% have only got diabetes. So in other words, over 85% of those people I look after have at least one other long-term condition.
“I think to just look at education for diabetes is ignoring the importance of this. We’ve got to think about it in the context of a multi-morbidity agenda, not just a disease-specific agenda because otherwise we’ll sort something out for the 15% and leave out the other 85% of the population.”

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