Three MPs try living with diabetes for a week

We’re always looking at new ways we can strengthen our relationships with MPs so that they’re more likely to advocate for better diabetes care and treatment in parliament. This year, for the first time, MPs had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to live with diabetes. In practice, this meant a crash course in living with Type 1 diabetes.

Throughout the week, the MPs – Ruth George, High Peak, Steve McCabe, Birmingham Selly Oak, and Christine Jardine, Edinburgh West received text messages from Dan Howarth, Head of Care and Diabetes Specialist Nurse. We tried to simulate the experience of diabetes as much as we could for someone who doesn’t actually live with it.

In order to give them a better picture of life with diabetes, each of the MPs received around three texts a day, for six days.

They had to do what any newly diagnosed person with Type 1 diabetes would do. Dan would tell them if they were having a hypo or if they needed to attend a diabetes appointment. They also had to carb count, test their blood sugars regularly and inject ‘insulin’ with their meals. This also involved adjusting the dose after exercise or drinking. We’d also check that they were using correct injection technique, just like someone with Type 1 diabetes needs to know.

One example of a text message the MPs received is: ‘You are running late to your next meeting and didn’t finish your lunch. In turn you have had more insulin for the food that you have eaten and this has caused a hypo. Stop what you’re doing, treat it and wait for ten minutes’

We know that diabetes is tough, it’s complicated and hard to understand. By getting MPs to participate in this initiative we hoped to give them an insight in to some of the challenges people with diabetes face every day. We know that only those living with diabetes will fully appreciate everything that it entails. However, with the week now over, it is clear that the MPs participating were surprised at the extent of the challenges. They are keen to take action to support those living with diabetes in parliament.

Interested in hearing directly from them? Following the week we asked Steve McCabe and Christine Jardine how they got on.

Steve McCabe

What is something you experienced this week you didn’t expect?
For me, it was trying to inject or take a blood test discreetly in public and the strange looks I received from some people when I tried to explain what I was doing.

What was the biggest challenge you experienced?
Trying to remember to do everything on time. I realised that I live quite a chaotic lifestyle and how disciplined many people with diabetes are.

What are you going to do now?
I’ll be campaigning for proper and equal access for all available treatments on the NHS and hope to secure a debate in parliament to raise awareness of mental health and diabetes.

Christine Jardine

What is something you experienced this week you didn’t expect?
The biggest thing I experienced was the realisation that it’s not something that you fit into your life, or arrange your life around. It is your life. It dominates everything from when and what you eat to your exercise regime and even sleep.

What was the biggest challenge you experienced?
The biggest challenge was being at a wedding where I had no choice over the menu. I had to try and work out what carbs I was eating and then think about privacy for the injection.

What are you going to do now?
I haven’t decided on one specific thing yet, but I hope to keep in touch with Diabetes UK and take every opportunity to help draw attention to diabetes.


Did you know that 7 out of 10 people have felt overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes? But most people can’t get the emotional and mental health support they need.

This has to change. If you agree, start by signing our petition.

 

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