Welcoming new Diabetes UK clinical champions – by Emily Watts

Emily-watts150x150This year Diabetes UK welcomed 17 new diabetes specialists to the Clinical Champions programme.

The 2016-2018 champions have now been in post for six months and I have had the opportunity to see what two champions in particular have been doing locally to improve diabetes care.

Alison Barnes

Alison is a research diabetes dietitian who is a key member of the team delivering the DIRECT study that Diabetes UK is funding. I travelled up to a GP practice with Alison near Hadrian’s Wall where they have participants from the study. The gentleman we saw had been following the diet for five weeks and had already lost a significant amount of weight and appeared to be keeping to the strict regime very well. We spoke about any problems he was having and how he was finding the diet. He seemed to find the regime very easy to stick to and was clearly just getting on with it – I was assured this isn’t always the case (especially with woman!) Alison also told me that they have observed the ‘partner effect,’ so if you have someone following the diet with you, you are much more likely to succeed.

We then travelled to Newcastle Hospital to see a patient who had completed the diet a year before and was coming in for an MRI scan to monitor changes in fat levels and other markers of success. It was very interesting to see the scan comparisons from pre and post diet and it really showed how effective the project is. This gentleman was from a particularly deprived part of Newcastle and there were concerns prior to the study that it would be difficult to engage people from his practice, but he had stuck to the diet and then kept the weight of a year later and had even cycled to the appointment which was great to see!

It was really inspiring to see people so motivated to improve their health and fantastic to see first-hand how Diabetes UKs money is making a difference. The team are now looking for funding to provide long-term intervention to these patients to monitor whether this is required to keep the weight off in the long term.

Nicky Daborn

Nicky Daborn is our practice nurse champion and also has a role at Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as the end of life care lead. The CCG has recently launched a new community diabetes service to ensure care is delivered in the best setting for patients. I was lucky enough to shadow the lead consultant for the service. We started the day by having a multi-disciplinary team meeting with the lead consultant, diabetes specialists nurses, GPs, podiatrists and the team admin support. The group met to discuss different patient case studies and to identify areas where the service needed improvement. As we all know, diabetes is a complex condition and requires input from various healthcare professionals. You could see the benefit of having staff from all across the care pathway sharing advice and discussing the best way to treat patients and this confirmed an integrated approach to care works best.

I was then able to shadow three consultations with the community consultant. The first lady we saw had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. We had half an hour to run through everything about the condition and what needed to happen going forward. For me it really hit home how little time this is when you consider how much of an impact Type 1 can have on your life. The women left the surgery feeling confident she could manage the condition and was signposted to further support if required. The consultant did a fantastic job of supporting the patient to understand the condition and also highlighted the consequences of poor management. Watching this you understand how complex it is for healthcare professionals to deliver this message as you need to balance making the patient understand the seriousness of the condition without scaremongering.

I finished off the day by shadowing a Desmond session.  We had 10 newly diagnosed patients who were very interested to learn how they could change their diet to improve health. I realised working in diabetes has made me forget that not everyone knows what a healthy diet really means and the more we can do to educate people about a healthy lifestyle the better.

You can find out more about clinical champions networks.

What is a healthy, balanced diet?


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