The latest National Diabetes Inpatient Audit shows that diabetes patients treated with insulin experience severe hypos in between 1 in 3 and 1 in 7 cases.
The National Diabetes Inpatient Audit 2013 uses data collected from patients to assess quality of care during hospital stays of people with diabetes. The audit reviews the short term complications experienced in hospital, such as too low blood glucose levels (hypos), and includes statistics on other features of care including whether patients were seen by specialist teams within the target time frame.
The findings show that prevention of hypoglycemia in patients, particularly those on insulin, is an area of concern for the NHS. The audit found that when the audit was ru, 30% of patients with type 1 diabetes, which is always treated with insulin, had experienced a severe hypo in hospital within the last 7 days. For the purpose of the audit, a severe hypo was defined as a blood glucose level of below 3.0 mmol/l.
In terms of people with type 2 diabetes treated with insulin, the number of severe hypos was 14.4%. It is good to see that the numbers of hypos and severe hypos in people with type 2 diabetes have largely reduced year on year since 2010. The reduction is applicable across all type 2 diabetes treatment types, with the number of severe hypos amongst people with non-insulin treated diabetes falling to below 5%.
For type 1 diabetes, however, the number of patients experiencing mild hypoglycemia is at its highest level over the last 4 years, with 41.8% of patients reported to have experienced a hypo in hospital within the last 7 days, when the audit was run. The figure of 30% of type 1 diabetes patients experiencing a severe hypo is an increase on last year’s 28.9%.
The high figures for severe hypoglycemia are a concern for both the NHS and for diabetes patients and their families. Charity Diabetes UK, which helped in compiling the audit report, is calling for commissioning groups and health trusts to take action to reduce the problems of dangerous complications occurring within hospitals.
Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, Barabara Young states: “Firstly, we need to see sufficient diabetes inpatient specialist nurses in every hospital, as there is strong evidence they improve people’s health and, by reducing length of stay, also save the NHS money. We also need systems in place to make sure all clinical staff in hospitals have a basic understanding of how to look after people with diabetes and, where appropriate, let patients manage their own condition in the same way they do at home.”

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