Local diabetes patients say “It’s good to talk”, during Diabetes Week

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Patients in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland who have Type 2 diabetes have given positive feedback on a course that offers support after diagnosis. The news coincides with Diabetes Week (11th to 17th June 2018) which, this year, is encouraging people to talk more openly about the condition.

The EMPOWER course, which is run by Spirit Healthcare, gives patients the chance to discuss their diabetes with other patients and to learn how it affects them and how best to manage it. 99% of patients who have used this service report that they have had an extremely positive experience and would recommend it to a friend. 

Professor Azhar Farooqi, GP Lead for Diabetes and Chair of Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group, which oversees diabetes services across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, said: “We understand that when you’re first diagnosed there is a lot of information to take in; it can feel a bit overwhelming and it’s not always easy to explain about your condition to other people. It helps to be able to discuss it.

That’s why we have made education programmes available, giving patients a chance to talk to others who have diabetes and to learn from professionals how to manage it for themselves. As well as the EMPOWER course, we also have a new programme, which started in May 2018 and is delivered by Oviva, for women with diabetes who would like to prepare for pregnancy, helping them with their diet and medication and a smartphone app for tracking their weight, blood sugar, food and activity levels.” 

Jackie lives in Sapcote and went on the EMPOWER course in January. “It’s over ten years since I got diagnosed, all these years my blood sugar’s been up and down and no-one really explained it to me. I just took my meds and knew that I had to avoid certain foods, but it wasn’t until I went on this course that I really understood what diabetes does to your body and how you can manage it.

“I was constantly asking questions and I learned so much. I’ve lost one and a half stone since February and I’m also managing my blood sugar levels properly. I feel so much better, I’ve got more energy. I’m aiming to get to the point where I don’t need the meds anymore. 

“I’d recommend EMPOWER to anyone with diabetes, in fact told my hairdresser about it, as she has diabetes and I thought this would help her, and now she’s done the course too.” 

Gill Peck, EMPOWER Clinical Lead, Spirit Healthcare, added: “EMPOWER’s education model means it’s more responsive to local patients’ needs, allowing programmes to be delivered nearer to patients’ homes at times that suit and, where necessary, in their first language. We’re delighted that patients have responded so positively and that they are feeling empowered to make positive changes that are helping them to live better, healthier lives.”

There is also an EMPOWER programme especially for young people aged 18-35. One of their patients, who is 18 and lives in Leicester City, attended this course after she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes last October. “It wasn't a surprise really, because it runs in the family. But it was hard because I felt embarrassed about it, I only told my best friend because of that. It's not easy being different from your friends and having to watch what you eat and how often you eat. I went out for the day recently and I forgot to eat, I felt really sick but I didn't say anything, because you don't know if people will understand. I kept it to myself but I felt sad about that. 

“The EMPOWER session was really helpful, there were lots of things I didn't know like about having smaller portion sizes and they gave me a book with information and tips. I learned so much to help me manage my diabetes better. I'm looking forward to going back again so I can meet more people my age who have diabetes, and get support and not feel like the only one, because I know I'm not, it's just that I’ve not met anyone else with it yet.”

The number of people developing diabetes is increasing. Over the last five years, diagnoses in East Leicestershire and Rutland have increased by 23.5% and in West Leicestershire there has been an increase of 24%. The largest increase, of 26%, was in Leicester City where one in every four people has diabetes. This is the fourth highest proportion in the country of patients diagnosed with diabetes. 

Patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are closely monitored by their GP Practice to make sure their blood sugar, blood pressure and fat stores in the blood (cholesterol) are at a healthy level. These are known as treatment targets and they help patients to avoid developing complications associated with their diabetes, which can include heart disease, kidney damage, eye problems and stroke.

The numbers of patients in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland achieving their three treatment targets for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes control have surpassed the national average. 

People are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they are over 40 years old - or over 25 in south Asian communities - if they have close relatives with diabetes, are overweight or are of south Asian, Chinese or African Caribbean origin, even if they were born in the UK.

Professor Azhar Farooqi added: “We are keen to give people opportunities to talk about diabetes, to find out if they are at risk and what to do about it. As well as services for people who already have diabetes, we also have the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. This is for people who are at high risk of developing the condition, helping them to achieve a healthy weight, increase their levels of physical activity and improve their diet, with practical tips that people can carry on with after the course has finished, with ongoing support available over the phone and online. Patients can access the programme via their GP and we’d encourage anyone with concerns to see their GP so they can be checked out.

And, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes in the past and would like to learn more about managing it and a chance to meet others who have diabetes too, you can ask at your GP practice about being offered a place on one of our education programmes, so that we can get more people talking about diabetes.”