Bringing people together to talk about diabetes – by Chris Askew
Talking to people about diabetes has been made a little easier thanks to all the people who shared their tips online during Diabetes Week. Our chief executive Chris Askew reflects on shared experiences made possible by our teams across the UK.
The curtain’s down on another Diabetes Week and what an immense theme – and invitation – #TalkAboutDiabetes proved to be. As with every year, it’s so inspiring to see so much hard work and energy on display, right across the charity and in every part of the UK – thank you, all.
I think there’s no better summing up of the success of this year’s Diabetes Week than this message to you all from long-time Diabetes UK friend and blogger, Grumpy (@grumpy_pumper):
This has been by far the best Diabetes Week I’ve seen. Congratulations to you and the team and thank you for all your hard work.
And he normally is quite grumpy, so great praise indeed.
But the conversation about diabetes is a constant; it goes on all year round, and we play an integral part in that in every nation of the UK. It’s also written into our mission statement, in which we commit to building ‘a strong community of support that finds and shares the knowledge needed to fight diabetes’.
That’s why our role in bringing people together to talk about diabetes is absolutely at the core of how we work, and I’ve had the chance in the last fortnight to see how we are constantly and expertly finding new ways to do this right across the UK, thanks to our colleagues in the regions and nations.
Northern and Yorkshire
In Huddersfield two weeks ago, our Northern Team brought healthcare professionals working in footcare together for a day’s conference, staged in partnership with the highly-rated School of Podiatry at the University of Huddersfield. On hand, too, in the student canteen, a number of our local volunteers delivering Risk Score assessments to conference attendees and students alike.
This conference is so important because, in short, there is no other way that professionals and commissioners working in and around footcare services can meet relatively locally to learn from each other and form best practice nationally. Based on the number of those attending, and on their responses to the sessions, it’s clear not only that there is a real need for this sort of event, but also how well our team in the North had judged and delivered it.
To Northern Ireland towards the end of Diabetes Week itself and, after a day meeting key contacts in the NHS with whom we are working closely to deliver improved diabetes care, I joined an evening meeting themed ‘Let’s talk about diabetes distress and depression’. Our team in Northern Ireland had staged the evening in partnership with the charity Aware and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
This was a thought-provoking, eye-opening event. After two great presentations by Amy (psychiatrist) and Becky (psychologist), it was over to the floor for discussion and sharing personal experiences. There were tears, laughter, stories which surprised but, equally, stories which had all the room nodding in agreement. Most of all, there was a real feeling of support and shared experience and, if we came to learn more about the practice of psychology and psychiatry, we left having also learned more about the power of sharing experiences with each other.
Finally, to the home of Swindon Town FC at the very end of Diabetes Week, to #TheBig1 event delivered by our South West Team. Another innovation and trailblazer, #TheBig1 aimed to bring together young people and young adults – either side of transition services – to learn more from our volunteer ‘diabetes gurus’ on many different aspects of life with diabetes. Again, with a big focus on sharing and taking part – set up brilliantly and comically by the opening words of the ace double act Verity and Matt, South West Volunteering & Outreach Manager and Improving Care Manager respectively. This was, unsurprisingly, another really well-attended event, marked by great feedback during and after the day. It’s not enough for me to say this, though. In the words of one supporter who, as a result of having lost her daughter from complications of her Type 1, has committed to support our work:
“The Big1 was everything we have all wanted for such a long time. It was so nice being able to meet so many other young type1’s and be part of such a positive day…. Sabrina did feel isolated and I am so determined to help others get support and share their experience and make life living with diabetes so much more positive. Thank you all in the team for the privilege of including me in this great event.”
So, this blog could finish here – three great events which exemplify what it means to bring those affected by and working in diabetes together, to Talk About Diabetes. But this great work by our teams across the UK goes on continuously; a Diabetes and Exercise conference in Swansea last Saturday, a Diabetes Awareness Day in Leamington Spa this week, Inspire Awards across all regions and nations this month, to name a few. That is truly what it means to ‘build a strong community of support’, week in, week out, everywhere across the UK, thanks to our colleagues’ hard work and ambition, in all our regions and in every nation.