Why are partners in Surrey Heartlands looking at improving diabetes services for our citizens?

The recent National Diabetes Audit indicates there are around 36,000 people with diabetes registered with a Surrey Heartlands or Surrey Heath GP practice. The number of people diagnosed with or at risk of developing the condition grows every day and based on current population trends, by 2035 it is likely that 4.9 million people will have diabetes in the UK.

Tackling the rise in the number of people with diabetes is vital not only to support our citizens to live longer, healthier and fulfilled lives but also to support the sustainable future of the health service.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body’s ability to respond or produce the hormone insulin is impaired. This causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. If left untreated it can cause serious health problems.

Diabetes can increase your risk of developing complications such as a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and loss of vision. There are two main types of diabetes called Type 1 and Type 2, and around 90% of adults with diabetes have Type 2.

Type 1 is where the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin and treatment is with insulin.

Type 2 is where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin, people may be treated with tablets initially and then require insulin.

What has happened so far and how is it going?

We submitted a successful case for funding in December 2016 and NHS England has awarded us £1.8m for two years to invest in diabetes services. We have recently recruited our core project team.

What things are you looking at that will make a difference to local people?

Sadly many people will experience potentially preventable complications because of diabetes, simply because they don’t know enough about their condition and how to manage it. All our projects are aimed at supporting people to manage their condition, receive care from knowledgeable professionals and to be able to access information and assistance when needed.  Our programme contains three main projects:

  1. Improving patient outcomes against the NICE recommended treatment targets, average blood sugar levels over a period of weeks / months (known as HbA1c), cholesterol levels and blood pressure by:
    • supporting GPs to ensure people with diabetes receive their annual diabetes checks
    • developing a diabetes education programme to improve the skills and understanding of health care professionals
    • working with Diabetes UK to engage with our citizens and promote the importance of self-management
  1. Increasing the number of people with diabetes who attend education in diabetes and how to self-manage the condition, by:
    • increasing the number of places available on educational courses
    • developing a greater choice of education at different locations and at different times to make it easier for citizens to attend
    • offering online education
    • ensuring that everyone understand how important education is and the differences it can make for a person with diabetes
  1. Recruit diabetes specialists nurses to work in hospital and GP practices to improve the patient outcomes and experience by:
    • seeing people with diabetes before they are admitted to hospital to optimise their diabetes control
    • support people during their inpatient stay and ensure their diabetes medications are given at the right time in the right way
    • provide specialist diabetes support for patients and carers when in hospital and to improve communication on discharge
    • providing diabetes education across the hospital to make sure that all staff on the wards understand diabetes and how to care for patients with diabetes

There is strong international evidence which demonstrates how behavioural interventions – which support people to maintain a healthy weight and be more active – can significantly reduce the risk of developing the condition.