Investment in specialist diabetes nurses ‘would save the NHS millions of pounds’

Diabetes UK says boosting specialist care for inpatients would lift pressures on non-specialist staff

Diabetes UK says boosting specialist care for inpatients would lift pressures on non-specialist staff

Diabetes UK said 9,600 inpatients experienced potentially life-threatening hypoglycaemia through poor insulin management last year. Picture: iStock

Investing in specialist diabetes nurses would reduce medication errors and help patients to self-manage their insulin, a report concluded.

A study by Diabetes UK found more than 260,000 inpatients with diabetes in England experienced a medication error during their hospital stay last year.

Of these, 9,600 experienced a serious and potentially life-threatening episode of hypoglycaemia caused by poor insulin management.

Savings would outweigh the costs

Diabetes UK said adopting its recommendations and having the right workforce in place could significantly reduce NHS spending and alleviate the strain on services. The charity said investing £5 million in new diabetes inpatient specialist nursing services in 54 trusts would yield annual savings of £9 million.

Diabetes UK senior clinical adviser Libby Dowling, a paediatric specialist diabetes nurse, said specialist nurses would be responsible for training non-specialist colleagues to spot potential errors.

Training would address possible reasons for glucose variability in patients such as lipotrophy, which is the body’s inability to maintain healthy fat levels), incorrect injection techniques and mis-timing of insulin administration and meals.

Adjustment to care plans

Ms Dowling added: ‘They would also have the knowledge to communicate effectively with patients and understand what changes in their treatment have occurred so they can adjust their care plan during their hospital stay.’

The report, published this week, was compiled from visits to hospitals in England during which the authors spoke to patients, healthcare professionals and managers.

Co-author Emily Watts, who is Diabetes UK's inpatient programme manager, said some hospitals in England are already doing what the report recommends.

An NHS England spokesperson said it has invested £10 million to increase the number of specialist diabetes nurses working in hospitals and added that a long-term funding plan for the NHS, to be published shortly, will include further plans.

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Further reading

Diabetes UK report: Making hospitals safe for people with diabetes

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