Having difficult conversations – helping people in Cornwall recognise the risk of developing diabetes

With an estimated 29,000 people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly currently living with diabetes and a further 26,000 people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, health organisations are supporting this year’s national Diabetes Week (June 11th) which aims to help prevent diabetes and support those living with the condition. 

The theme of this year’s Diabetes Week, which is staged by Diabetes UK, is “having difficult conversations”. To help health care practitioners have these conversations NHS England has published “Language Matters” which provides advice and guidance on the language which should be used to communicate with people who have diabetes. 

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Approximately 1,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly every year. Helping people to recognise the risks of developing diabetes and encouraging them to take action to reduce those risks is one of the key priorities for health and care organisations. 

“Diabetes can have many serious effects on a person’s health, such as increased risk of a stroke, heart attack or impaired eyesight, and we want to help people to reduce those risks” said Caroline Court, Interim Public Health Director for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

Dr Iain Chorlton, NHS Kernow’s chairman, added: “Leading a lifestyle balanced with good diet and physical activity will not only help people lower their risk of developing diabetes, it will also help them to improve overall health. 

“We know it can sometimes be challenging to raise these issues with patients and their families but it is vital to have these difficult conversations and I welcome this new guidance from the NHS”.

 Last year more than 1,300 people from across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who were at risk of developing diabetes took part in the National Diabetes Prevention Programme ‘Healthier You’ which provided advice on nutrition and exercise and suggested behavioural changes to maintain a healthy weight and become more physically active. 

One of those who has benefited from the programme is Lindsey whose routine blood test at her doctor’s surgery revealed she had higher than expected blood sugar levels.  After being invited to join a Living Well Taking Control (LWTC) group Lindsey has lost weight, changed her diet and has become more active. 

“It was reassuring knowing I wasn’t the only one in this position” said Lindsey.

“I have learnt how to make healthier choices, reviewing my diet and what exercise I am doing. I now use the traffic light system when out shopping to ensure I buy healthier foods. I have also cut down on my sugar intake.” 

Since completing the first stages of the LWTC programme, Lindsey’s confidence has grown and she has become a volunteer for Age UK Cornwall.  One of the volunteering roles she covers is to assist the LWTC facilitator with two groups by greeting participants on arrival, making refreshments for the group and joining in with group discussions sharing her experiences.

Other successful local initiatives include the development of a virtual diabetes pathway which uses technology to reduce the time some patients have to wait and travel to hospital appointments. First piloted in north Kerrier, this pathway reduces inconvenience for patients and brings their care closer to home.  

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly also have 100 percent participation by GP practices in the Primary Care National Diabetes Audit which is higher than most areas of the country. This allows health care professionals to identify the number of people living with diabetes who achieve treatment targets for blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, helping to reduce the risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, stroke, amputation, kidney disease and blindness. 

Further work is now taking place to increase the number of people achieving these targets and identify those people at highest risk in order to support improving their care.

NHS Kernow is also one of more than 180 CCGs taking part in the NHS Diabetes programme which aims to improve outcomes for people with diabetes. 

As part of this programme NHS Kernow is aiming to improve the health outcomes of more than 2,000 people with diabetes who have been identified as having poor blood glucose / blood pressure / cholesterol control issues which could cause them to have complications such as stroke or amputation later in life. Staff are currently working with GPs, colleagues at Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, community nurses and community pharmacists on a range of initiatives to support this group of people. 

NHS Kernow’s work to provide better and easier support and care to people living with diabetes was praised at last year’s prestigious National Quality in Care (QiC) awards, with judges presenting the CCG with a commendation in the “Patient Care Pathway – Adults” category for its virtual clinic work. 

Anyone who is concerned about developing diabetes can check their risk on the Diabetes UK online risk tool before speaking to a health professional. 

Story posted 12 June, issued by Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group.