Healthcare professionals in England are being let down by a lack of education and training on diabetes, according to new research.
Charity group Diabetes UK found that only 40% of the country’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) fund specific diabetes education for their doctors, nurses and other professionals, while just over half (56%) allocate time for their NHS employees to undertake diabetes-related training or development.
Additionally, only a quarter of the 56% allow dieticians and podiatrists to take time out for diabetes education, despite support from these specialist staff vital for helping to reduce the risk of serious diabetic complications such as amputation.
The worrying figures come from a survey of CCGs and, according to Diabetes UK, suggest that “care is being provided to people with diabetes by staff who may not have an adequate level of knowledge about this complex condition”.
The statistics are also supported by a separate poll of users of the Diabetes in Healthcare e-learning programmen, which is designed for healthcare professionals who are not diabetes specialists. The research found that following completion of the Diabetes UK and Bupa developed course, 8 out of 10 respondents reported an improvement in their knowledge and understanding of diabetes and said they felt more confident in supporting people with the disease.
Simon O’Neill, Director of Health Intelligence and Professional Liaison at Diabetes UK, said: “Diabetes already costs the NHS an incredible amount of money – around £10 billion a year – but money should be invested more wisely, beginning with ensuring that healthcare staff who treat people with diabetes have the right training and skills. The importance of healthcare professionals having knowledge of diabetes is why we and Bupa developed the Diabetes in Healthcare programme.”
To help support both healthcare professionals and those who commission services, Diabetes UK is calling for a national competency framework to be implemented, as this would provide clear guidance for the NHS, from GP practices to large hospitals, to help identify which staff should receive diabetes training and how and when training should be provided. The framework will ensure that all healthcare professionals can demonstrate an appropriate level of care for people with diabetes.
At the moment, every five years licensed doctors practising medicine in the UK have to demonstrate that they are fit to practice and their knowledge and skills are up to date. This revalidation process will soon be a three-yearly requirement for practising nurses. Individual healthcare professionals are also responsible for their own generic ongoing education known as Continual Professional Development.
Yet for non-diabetes specialists, such as those working in primary care, general ward staff or nursing staff in residential care homes, the current system does not provide training or assess skills in the specific area of diabetes.

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