Council of People Living with Diabetes – by Andy Broomhead

Andy-Broomhead-266x266This weekend I attended my second Council of People Living with Diabetes (CPD) meeting.  The council is made up of approximately 30 people living with or affected by diabetes, who are of different ages and backgrounds from across the UK.  The council includes people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as parents of children with diabetes and acts as a sounding board for Diabetes UK.

The Council meets four times a year and discusses various aspects of the Diabetes UK strategy and objectives, acting as a representative body of people affected by diabetes.  During the meeting, CPD members hear from senior Diabetes UK staff about ongoing work and work in groups to feedback and help develop ideas.

Being on the Council is a great opportunity to meet other volunteers from across the UK and find out what successes they’ve had in their area, as well as finding out what issues exist.  We know as people with diabetes that sharing experiences is a powerful thing in our self management, but it’s also an incredibly useful tool for volunteers.  Being able to see how others approach problems in their area is very inspiring, and spending time with Diabetes UK volunteers who are involved in a number of different local and national projects.

At this most recent meeting, we spent time in the morning hearing from the new Diabetes UK chief executive, Chris Askew and discussing new ways to advertise campaigns.   We looked back at the successes of “Dan!” in waiving prescription fines for people with diabetes, and the #135shoes campaign which raised awareness of the number of diabetes-related amputations each week.  We considered how a similar creative approach could be used to improve awareness of structured education and maintain focus on the foot care campaign.

At lunch I had the chance to talk to Chris Askew about the work that’s going on in Sheffield with our local group and the support we offer people with diabetes in the city.  A number of us also discussed how more informal group structures can be more effective in offering support to people that need it, at a time that suits them.  It was good to be able to get the views of others who face similar challenges in other parts of the country and get ideas about how to improve.

After lunch we discussed how to involve the wider community in understanding what should be Type 2 diabetes research  priorities and, we talked about the Diabetes UK Type 1 Strategy.

As someone with Type 1, it can be easy to focus purely on my own views of living with diabetes and so the session on Type 2 research made me think.  I was able to contribute some ideas on how to engage with the UK’s Type 2 community and making sure the results of any future research are made available to as many people as possible.  It may be that this takes several months before priorities are agreed, but it feels good to have the chance to be involved at an early stage.

Our final session about Type 1 strategy was good as it gave the Council the chance to hear back on a topic we’d discussed at my first meeting back in May.  It’s encouraging to see the evolution of some ideas we’d had only a few months ago, and it also gives you a real sense of how hard everyone works to ensure as many people as possible have access to the support that Diabetes UK offers.

I’m fortunate that on a day-to-day basis, I have the chance to interact and learn from others with diabetes, either through my work with the Sheffield Group or via social media.  I also count myself very lucky to be able to meet up with a group of committed volunteers and Diabetes UK staff a few times each year and take away a number of positive messages and inspiring ideas to use in my area of the country.  I’d been back home less than 24 hours and already had plans to speak to some clinical staff in Sheffield about trying new things to help improve patient services.

As volunteers, things can sometimes get on top of us when we feel like we’re not making the progress we’d like to see.  In living with diabetes, it can be easy to feel downhearted if we go through a phase of difficult self management.  I think what these both have in common is that we can talk to our peers to realise that we’re not alone, that others face the same challenges we do, and that they can help and inspire us to try something different which can ultimately make a huge positive difference in our lives, or those of others.

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