UK government to undertake diabetes care audit

by Mark Benson on August 28, 2012

UK government to undertake diabetes care audit

The UK government has announced plans for the first ever care home diabetes audit which will involve all residential nursing homes in England. It is hoped that the move will recognise the difference in diabetes care across the UK healthcare system and indeed it could and should provide a blueprint for diabetes healthcare in the future. It is amazing to think that this is the first such audit carried out by any UK government especially when you bear in mind that diabetes is fast becoming the number one medical condition across the UK.

Who will carry out the diabetes audit?

While the UK government is in charge of carrying out the diabetes audit it is being done in conjunction with a number of healthcare bodies. The Institute of Diabetes for Older People, Association of British Clinical Diabetologists as well as the Royal College of Nursing and Diabetes UK are all involved. Each of these individual bodies is able to give a very different opinion and a very different view of the diabetes sector in the UK and how this is servicing those in residential nursing homes across the country.

While all of the residential nursing homes across the UK will be invited to give their opinion on the matter of diabetes care it is not clear how many will partake. Those who do decide to partake in the survey will gain access to the in-depth analysis of all returns and indeed they should be able to improve and adapt their own diabetes care for their own patients.

What prompted this diabetes survey?

It is not totally clear what has prompted this move by the UK government but a recent pilot carried out in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire seemed to suggest that there are great variations in access to training and education for those working in nursing homes across the UK. In these two areas of the UK it very quickly became apparent that the degree of healthcare and the standard of health care available to diabetes sufferers varied significantly.

This is not a criticism of the nursing home sector or indeed a criticism of the many staff who do amazing jobs with a large number of patients. It is merely a way for the UK government and the healthcare system, including a variety of diabetes charities, to come together and put down a blueprint for the future which may at some point become law. Putting these findings into law, when they are ready, is still many years off although it is certainly something in the minds of politicians.

Are there no blueprints for diabetes care in nursing homes?

While the availability of training and education for those involved with diabetic sufferers in nursing homes was covered above, it is worth noting that there is a large variation in specific policies undertaken by individual nursing homes. There is no one policy to fit all with regards to the treatment of diabetic sufferers in nursing homes and indeed there are no clear guidelines for nursing home management to follow.

As we mentioned above, it is quite unbelievable to learn that diabetic sufferers across the UK now living in nursing homes may not be receiving the kind of treatment they should be expecting. Indeed what is more alarming is the fact that the government is unable to say definitively the level of treatment available as well as the level of training and education for members of staff. This is not a problem which has cropped up on the government over the last couple of years, this is an issue which has been ongoing for some time and is set to get worse before it gets better.

Is there a need for flexibility with regards to diabetes treatment?

While no individual case of diabetes in those living in and attending nursing homes across the UK are identical there is no doubt that there are specific patterns emerging. There is a need to be flexible with regards to specific patients but there is also a need to have a flexible blueprint available in times of trouble and when advice is required. As the UK population gets older the percentage of diabetic sufferers living in and attending nursing homes will increase dramatically. So the government is doing the correct thing in putting in place a blueprint for the future but quite why it has taken so long is a mystery!

There was a publication back in 2010 by the charity Diabetes UK which issued guidance on diabetes treatment within care homes across the UK. Whether or not this was the catalyst for the government’s move is debatable but it seems that very few nursing homes have taken on the advice from Diabetes UK despite the fact it is coming from an association which has been there, done it and is well aware of the issues attached to diabetes treatment.

Do diabetes charities have a part to play?

While there is no way that governments can be experts in every single field of medicine there was some concern that a government driven audit of diabetes in care homes across the UK, which did not involve diabetes charities, may well have ended up as a whitewash. Therefore there is no doubt that diabetes charities across the country and indeed medical professions specialising in diabetes have a major role to play in this ongoing audit and will no doubt be heavily involved in the final analysis.

This comes at a time when charities across the UK are struggling with their funding as the recession hits home and more and more people are forced to reduce their spending. The UK government has also introduced a number of austerity measures which has seen charitable donations reduced at a time when they are perhaps needed most. The reality is that diabetes is likely to affect one in three people in the US in their lifetime by 2050 and very often issues which are prevalent in the US do tend to transfer themselves to the UK in time.

It is not too late to put in place a blueprint for diabetes treatment in nursing homes across the UK and indeed the UK government’s timing could turn out to be spot on as we hover on the verge of a massive increase in the number of sufferers.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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