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NHS failing to meet diabetes education challenge

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Patients must be educated on self-management Patients must be educated on self-management

A lack of education for patients with diabetes is leading to increased numbers of complications, a report published by the all-party parliamentary group on diabetes has found.

The report, Taking control: Supporting people to self-manage their diabetes, found that 15.9% of people diagnosed with diabetes are offered an education course on the condition, and only 3.4% attend one. It highlights the importance of educating patients to self-care, as, according to the report, 99% of diabetes care falls to self-management.

Speaking at the Diabetes UK conference in London on 11 March, Mags Bannister, nurse consultant in diabetes care at Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: 'I think the most important element here is that we have got to educate the patients. We can do all this wonderful stuff but a person with diabetes has to understand their condition, what we can do to manage it, and what they need to do to manage it.'

Bernie Stibling, the director of DESMOND (a diabetes education programme), said: 'With diabetes prevalence continuing to rise, the NHS is faced with a huge challenge. Structured education programmes are a proven method to enable supported self-care in diabetes. We believe structured diabetes education is the only long-term answer.'

The report suggests that there are barriers that can prevent people with diabetes from accessing structured education on their condition. While the report suggests that a 'postcode lottery' is largely to blame, there is also evidence that some healthcare professionals do not refer their patients to the education courses. The report states that where diabetes education is signposted, people affected by the condition are often given little information about the benefits of attending and consequently many patients stated that they had doubts about the usefulness of the programmes available.

Ms Stibling added: 'People with diabetes have a demanding condition to manage, yet on average they see a healthcare professional for an hour a year only. One hour of support out of a total of 8,766 to help them manage a condition which, if neglected, could lead to blindness, a lost limb or an increased risk of a stroke or heart attack. That's 525,900 minutes that a person is left alone to manage their condition.'

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