More than a quarter of a million diabetes inpatients in the UK experienced a medication error in hospital last year.
Charity Diabetes UK has called on hospitals to improve patient experience after it was revealed around 260,000 inpatients had been affected.
Experiencing a medication error puts someone at risk of serious complications and could even be life-threatening. In 2017, 9,600 people with diabetes suffered severe hypoglycemia following poor insulin management, while 2,200 developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) after receiving too little insulin.
The Diabetes UK figures were compiled from hospital data across the UK based on patients’ experiences, inpatient teams, healthcare professionals and hospital managers.
More than a million people with diabetes were admitted to hospital last year, and the charity’s report shows a need for improvements in care for inpatients.
Because people with diabetes have higher risks of infection, their stays in hospital are often longer compared to those without the condition. Reducing the amount of time people with diabetes spend in hospital is one of the charity’s targets.
Additional recommendations to improve hospital care include greater investment in specialist nursing services and staff training. Currently, a quarter of hospitals do not have specialist diabetes nurses. The charity believes this investment could eventually reduce the £2.5bn a year the NHS spends on inpatient diabetes care.
Responding to the report, a spokesperson for NHS England said: “NHS England has recently invested £10m to increase the number of specialist diabetes nurses working in hospitals, and evidence shows they help reduce lengths of stay and medication errors for patients with diabetes.
“As we draw up the long-term plan for the NHS, we need to build on existing work, including the diabetes treatment and care programmen, to help tackle this growing problem.”
Earlier this year, a record number of hospital sites participated in Hypo Awareness Week, an annual campaign designed to improve hypoglycemia knowledge among healthcare professionals and patients.

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