Time to take action – By Barbara Young

Barbara YoungThe great and the good (or the brightest and best?) of the diabetes research and service community worldwide gathered in Melbourne in December for the biannual International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Conference, a tremendous opportunity to hear about the best of research and care worldwide. Some of the best ideas come from the developing nations where lack of resources and the scale of the diabetes challenge mean that both governments and Diabetes UK sister bodies come forward with hugely innovative solutions on next to no money.

One of the most popular issues was how can we make sure that people with diabetes get access to education to support them in managing their own condition. New figures in the UK show that less than 5 per cent of people with diabetes get access to proper education, which is a much lower figure than we thought. My job at the conference was to spot these great ideas and steal them for our work in the UK! So, watch this space for some new ways forward on patient education to supplement the online support programme for people diagnosed with Type 2 that we’ve recently launched Type 2 and Me.

A new strand at the conference was on the history of diabetes, and tales were legion of long, pointy needles, worldwide shortages of insulin and primitive urine testing before meters and strips came in. It was a great reminder that we’ve come a long way in the last 80 years. But, we’re still not making enough progress with the numbers of people with diabetes continuing to rise, complication rates increasing and standards of care still very patchy.

Our hosts, the Australians, used the occasion to announce their government’s commitment to an Action Plan for Diabetes, and it was with growing amazement that we learned how many countries round the world – Qatar, Abu Dhabi, India, and now Australia – either have, or have committed to delivering, similar Action Plans. Here in the UK, the Welsh Government launched its Action Plan and excellent implementation process a few months ago. Yet, in England, since the 10-year National Service Framework ran out last year, we’ve had no concerted national Action Plan for tackling diabetes. In fact, diabetes is almost being airbrushed from the NHS lexicon at England level, and rolled up into long-term conditions, vascular conditions and avoidable deaths, with a resulting loss of focus. All those other countries can’t be wrong in having identified diabetes as one of the most pressing and most expensive health challenges of this century. If they need an Action Plan for Diabetes, why don’t we?

Baroness Young
Chief Executive, Diabetes UK

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