NHS Diabetes Care at ‘Breaking Point’ report warns

18 March 2014

NHS Diabetes Care at ‘Breaking Point’ report warns

New analysis published by Diabetes UK, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and TREND-UK has concluded that the NHS is not recruiting sufficient numbers of diabetes specialist nurses (DSNs) in line with the growing numbers of people being diagnosed with diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes.

The report is called Diabetes Specialist Nurses: Improving Patient Outcomes and Reducing Costs and through its analysis states that DSNs play an invaluable role in providing good patient care and if there were greater numbers of DSNs they would probably help the NHS save money, as they would reduce the amount of time diabetics would stay in hospital. That is just in the short term. In the long term, DSNs help to support diabetics to reduce the risk of health complications. Given the fact that such complications account for 80% of the £10bn spent by the NHS spends on diabetes a year, the findings of the report seem both timely and logical.

People with diabetes need appropriate hospital care

Mirroring the decrease in nurses throughout the NHS, the report finds that DSN staffing levels have significantly slowed down. Due to short-term budget pressures, diabetics are being deprived of the inpatient care they need as a third of hospitals do not have a specific diabetic inpatient specialist nurse to help them.

Diabetes has become a significant problem, with the number of people diagnosed with diabetes increasing by 100,000 per year over the last few years. Three organisations have warned DSN staffing levels are in danger of being completely unsustainable, especially with half of current DSN’s expected to retire within the next 10 years.

Mistreatment.com has dealt with a number of enquiries from members of the public worried about their own diabetes related healthcare both on an inpatient and outpatient basis. The escalation of diabetes as a condition, where safeguards are not in place, can lead to extreme deterioration in health and in the worst cases debilitating conditions such as vision loss and even death.

Staffing factors and downsizing impacts diabetic care

Yet staffing is not the only factor that is hurting inpatient care for diabetics. The role of DSNs themselves is being impacted. A survey taken as part of the report concluded that DSNs are buried under administrative work with 20% of them unable to spend the amount of time needed with patients, with other DSNs (40%) saying that they posts had been downgraded.

All these factors seem to weight against the future of DSNs, and the three organisations warn that culling the number of DSNs will impact the quality of diabetes healthcare, which is more important than ever now with the rise in diabetes in the UK as a whole.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Diabetes specialist nurses are the lynchpins of quality diabetes care. As well as being a vital link between hospitals and community services, they train other healthcare professionals about diabetes care, give people the education they need to manage their own condition and help make sure people with diabetes get the hospital care they need.”

She added: “The NHS urgently needs to recognise the importance of DSNs and to end the recruitment freezes that are happening in far too many places. We then need to see NHS organisations take action to ensure we increase the number of them in the short term and then start planning for a future so we can meet the minimum recommended staffing levels and so help make sure people with diabetes get the quality of healthcare they need.”

This is a key area of health care

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The lack of investment in specialist diabetic nurses shows a worrying short-term approach to diabetes care provision by many trusts, illustrated by the news that a third of hospitals have no specific diabetes inpatient specialist nurse. This is actually a key area of health care where investing now can actually save the NHS money in the long term, while at the same time offering people with diabetes the care that they deserve. Short-term cost cutting in this area can have devastating effects.”

June James, a spokesperson for TREND-UK said: “Specialist nurses working in diabetes are clinically and cost effective in promoting self-management skills and in the reducing of avoidable hospital admissions.

“This will lead to significant gaps in direct patient care, clinical expertise and training for future generations to come,” she said.

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Mistreatment.com has a number of specialist departments which deal with enquiries relating to a variety of medical health complaints and medical related negligence areas. Mistreatment.com was created to listen to talk to people who feel that they had nobody at the NHS to listen to them when something went wrong. Members of the public who call through to us often want to raise an issue within NHS care so that somebody else is not affected the way their and their loved ones have been. Sometimes they call through to us to make a medical negligence claim because a financial settlement is needed to rebuild their life and to take care of their family. If you have experienced a form of medical mistreatment through emergency services, A&E or through surgery, for example, you can speak to the experts at Mistreatment.com