Levelling up – by Ann Middleton

ann-middleton-150x150In November, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes (APPGD) published their report ‘Levelling Up: Tackling Variation in Diabetes Care’.

As a person with Type 1 diabetes and Diabetes Voice representing Diabetes UK, I felt fortunate to be able to attend their report launch event at Westminster. There, I listened to speeches given by the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diabetes, Keith Vaz, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt and moving presentations from people living with diabetes.

My MP, Barbara Keeley, Shadow Mental Health and Social Care minister (pictured left), also took time out from her busy schedule to meet with me (pictured right).

The presence of senior politicians, MPs, Diabetes UK Clinical Champions, senior representatives from Diabetes UK and JDRF, all reflected the recognition and gravity needed in tackling the problems identified in this important report and in addressing its recommendations.

The issue of variation and inequality of diabetes care, both nationally and within individual districts, is unacceptable and needs urgent attention. This is why I was keen to attend the launch in order to start a dialogue with my own and other MPs.

The specific topics I raised with my local MP, stressing the potential for improved care to prevent the serious, debilitating and expensive cost caused by poor outcomes, included my own mixed experiences and the more general concerns I have outlined below.

My personal, positive experiences include having access to an insulin pump, a high level of expertise in both Secondary Care and among my Diabetes Specialist Nurses and dieticians and the valuable structured education courses I have been fortunate to attend.

However, worryingly, more and more care is now being transferred into General Practice and there, by the very nature of their generalist role, I find the nursing staff, understandably, lack the specialist knowledge important to supporting me.

More generally: There is huge variation across practices in achieving the three NICE targets – blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. There is the need to know, year on year, the percentage of people with diabetes who have never actually attended structured education courses. There is the need for a strategy to identify and support people who require emotional and psychological support. I also raised the question of a need for mandatory training for all general practice staff carrying out diabetes clinics.

My MP has now written to my local healthcare authority, the Clinical Commissioning Group, about the issues we discussed and has promised to feed their response back to me.

I have been involved with Diabetes UK for many years and been privileged to serve on various advisory groups and committees, most significantly on research groups. As someone who has benefited enormously from research, I am acutely aware of the importance of getting research into practice. The heroic research carried out by our researchers is to no effect if it doesn’t get into practice and reach all who need it.

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