Urgent action must be taken to recruit more diabetes specialist nurses, according to research by Diabetes UK.
The charity conducted a survey of diabetes specialist nurses and 78% raised concerns that their workload was impacting on patient care and/or safety and almost four in 10 respondents considered their current caseload 'unmanageable'.
The survey also found that there is a mismatch between the number of diabetes specialist nurses and the soaring rates of people with diabetes. The number of people living with diabetes in the UK has increased by 72% in little over a decade and has now reached over 4.5 million. However, almost a third of respondents said that there have been cuts to diabetes specialist nursing posts in their team over the past two years. Almost one in four (23%) report downgrades to posts in their team over the last two years.
'Nurses in this field are diminishing as the population of people with diabetes escalates. The maths is simple, but no one is doing the maths,' said one diabetes specialist nurse who responded to the survey.
Diabetes UK is calling for a national workforce strategy, as well as local action, to ensure there are appropriately skilled nurses to meet the demand across both primary and secondary care.
Bridget Turner, director of policy and care improvement at Diabetes UK, said: 'Evidence shows that diabetes specialist nurses reduce length of stay in hospital, improve patient satisfaction and are cost effective. But as they are relatively more expensive than non-specialist staff, they are vulnerable to cost-cutting measures in times of austerity.'
The charity also highlighted the need to develop a national accreditation framework and job description for diabetes specialist nurses, to ensure consistency in the role across the UK and enable progression from entry-level specialist through to senior specialist roles.
The survey revealed that many diabetes services are relying on the goodwill of nurses with one respondent saying 'caseload and workload has increased but time given to do this has not, so I work a lotof unpaid hours to be able to complete core work.' Nurses reported feelng concerned that they may make mistakes as the workload is so high.