Monday, 30 March 2015

Is coming 4th out of 10 good enough for diabetes?

Late last week, NHS England published its business plan for 2015/16. It includes 10 priorities, of which ‘tackling obesity and preventing diabetes’ comes 4th, after improving, upgrading and transforming care for, respectively, cancer treatment, mental health & dementia and learning disabilities. It’s ahead, in the list of priorities, of urgent and emergency care, primary care, elective care, specialized care, whole systems care and foundations for improvement.

Of course, the list isn’t really about priorities of decreasing importance, all of these issues are of equal importance and will, we hope, receive equal attention, not to mention equal share of the some £2bn budget. Having a list of 10 makes it easier for people, including presumably NHS England staff and politicians themselves, to read and remember. It’s unarguable that all these issues need to be acted upon and also that system change is badly needed to address the early 21st century health ‘state of the art’. On that note, the business plan is to be welcomed and being 4th doesn’t mean losing out.

The targets for ‘tackling obesity and preventing diabetes', focuses on Type 2 diabetes (a detail unfortunately left out of the title) are ambitious for a year’s work. By March 2016, a prevention programme will be ‘available’ for 10,000 people at risk of Type 2 diabetes. NHS England will be working with Diabetes UK and Public Health England to develop the programme and roll it out, partly via the NHS Health Checks system. The plans are to ‘enroll’ people identified onto a lifestyle management programme to address their ‘smoking, alcohol intake, nutrition and physical activity’. The latter also applies to plans in priority 4 to also encourage these factors to be addressed by NHS staff themselves. It’s not clear if the latter will be among the 10,000 initial 'enrollees' or if there is to be a separate programme for healthcare staff.

While the forthcoming programme sounds admirable, we have a concern, based on the old saying ‘you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink’. That is, it is one thing to ‘refer’ or ‘enroll’ people onto a lifestyle programme, but quite another to ensure attendance or participation. These the only things that are likely to make a difference to the health of the 10,000 souls to be identified. So, in the spirit of ‘4s’, we hope that the prevention programme in development includes this ‘top 4’ of evidence-based, vital components for success in encouraging lifestyle change:

1. ‘Invite’, ‘encourage’ or ‘welcome’ people to take part, rather than ‘refer', ‘enroll’, ‘send’ or any other paternalistic term that removes any suggestion of free choice
2. Focus on success and the future in interactive and participatory, enjoyable activities
3. Scrutinise the programme for, and remove any evidence of, judgement, tellings off, compliance-orientation, school or classroom-like environments
4. Prize autonomy, choice and personal decision-making

As we have said before, we wish this programme well and sincerely hope that this time next year, despite the election and our reservations, our blog will be trumpeting the success and ongoing delivery of type 2 diabetes prevention.

NHS England Business Plan

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Happiness is… ‘Emotional HBA1C’?

By Rosie Walker of Successful Diabetes and Jen Nash of Positive Diabetes

Last Friday was International Happiness Day, a very enjoyable-sounding occasion when the world’s happiness quotient is focused on. People were asked on TV stations, radio and around the world ‘what makes you happy ?’ and contributed such aspects of their lives as children, long walks, sunsets and chocolate cake! One report on the BBC showed a cafĂ© offering massage and laughter therapy to promote happiness!

All that may sound a bit trivial, obvious even, but there is a serious message behind the day, which is that more and more people, and younger people, report feeling lonely. Loneliness leads to isolation, low self esteem, a lack of self-worth and even feelings of not wanting to live anymore. It can also lead to physical ill health, which can all add up to a vicious circle of misery. Knowing this, the simple ways of trying to help make people happier, look much more important.

Happiness is also a factor in the ‘Emotional HBA1C’ – that’s HbA1c, but with the letters creating different meaning from the traditional. Recently, at Diabetes UK’s annual conference, we presented this emotional version, one where instead of being short for the medical terms ‘Haemoglobin’ and ‘A1c’, the letters stood for psychological factors which can also contribute to this all-important result, upon which so many decisions in diabetes care are made. However, these factors are often ignored in diabetes care services. We believe that being more aware of them can help people with diabetes and health professionals alike: Here’s what our HBA1C letters stood for, and why: .

Happiness: Being happier and relaxed – or, put another way, less stressed and distressed - can reduce blood glucose levels.
Balance: Looking after diabetes enough, in the face of all the pressures of ‘real life’, contributes to keeping a health balance which in turn influences blood glucose.
Attachment: Negative family experiences in early life can sometimes make it difficult later to look after diabetes and form relationships, including with health professionals. This might lead to less attention on diabetes care and, in turn, HbA1c.
1st things first: Being able to prioritise diabetes care, when it needs attention is likely to lead to better health. Diabetes can be thought of as a baby who demands the caregivers’ full attention, even when they are busy with something else. Working out how to look after the ‘diabetes baby’, however disliked, can positively affect the HbA1c result.
Curiosity: for the person to be curious about their own diabetes and identify the factors and strategies which work for them personally and they can cope with, makes a big difference to the end result of HbA1c.

For health professionals, these ‘emotional HBA1C’ factors give clues to how to create an environment in a consultation, meeting or education session, that pays attention and actively discusses how the person is coping emotionally as well as discussing the medical aspects. An example of a ‘health professional emotional HBA1C’ might look like this:

Help people to define their main issue of concern.
Be accepting of the person’s point of view.
Acknowledge feelings as well as practical content.
1 main idea or insight to take away from the encounter .
Concentrate on person’s agenda.

Our workshop was very well received and attended and we’ve created a full summary, including the participants’ reflections at the end and the slides we used to explain the ‘Emotional HBA1C’ in more detail and the evidence for it. We invited people to create their own ‘Emotional HBA1C’ of the aspects of diabetes they felt influenced the medical HbA1c, and use it in their life and work with diabetes. .

We invite you to download the workshop summary and we hope this new way of looking at HbA1c inspires you. If you decide to create your own ‘Emotional HBA1C’, perhaps you’d share it with us, here?

Wishing you happiness, today and for the future!

Positive Diabetes
Successful Diabetes

Friday, 6 March 2015

APPG for DSME - OK?!

Well done the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Diabetes! They have produced a report detailing the parlous situation and implications for people with diabetes of the gross lack of education provided to people when they are diagnosed, and beyond.

The report is concisely written and focuses on recent evidence about barriers to access to education, including the lack of provision of courses in general, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach to provision, in particular. It highlights the gap between services being rewarded for referrals to education through the Quality and Outcomes Framework, a system through which GPs are paid for their activities, and attendance by people at the courses. They conclude that this is often because people are not involved or engaged in the need for them to attend. .

The group gathered evidence from an admirable number of people living with diabetes themselves as well as clinicians, academics and diabetes organisations. This is to be congratulated and will probably give the report even greater credibility as well as those people being sure their voice has been heard. .

It’s a welcome addition, but only an addition, to the body of evidence that provision of opportunities for learning about diabetes are woefully inadequate and that diabetes services and commissioners alike seem to see training and education in the lifelong occupation of caring for diabetes by the person with it themselves, as a bolt-on ‘extra’ to clinical care. It makes recommendations, which are sound, but only an echo of what has already been said. .

The real question is ‘what difference will this report make?’ There are opportunities for clinical commissioning groups to provide courses in sufficient numbers and variety to meet their populations’ needs, but only if they also invest in a system which enables people to be told about them and be encouraged to attend. One of the main barriers to this cited in the report, is the attitude of referrers, who often have no knowledge or experience themselves of what education courses provide, nor their long term benefits. Hence, for many of them, a referral is a ‘take it or leave it’ affair and, in truth, a paper exercise. This must change if attendance at courses is to change and make it worthwhile for all those courses to be provided. .

Like most publications, the report is already in danger of being out of date, despite only being released a day or two ago. Updates to National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance to the NHS for Type 1 diabetes, which are currently in consultation stage, propose to replace one of the documents to which the report refers. This is Technology Appraisal (TA) 60, which details what education programmes should be available. TA 60 was replaced for Type 2 diabetes in the last round of NICE guidance updates. Fortunately the new proposed guidelines for Type 1 diabetes, incorporate much of TA 60’s contents and also place provision of education as a priority for implementation. If adopted, these new updated recommendations should at least help to improve the picture, particularly if their implementation is closely monitored. We will have to ‘watch that space’, but for now at least a tiny further step has been taken to rectify this dire situation. .

All Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes (2015). Taking Control: Supporting people to self-manage their diabetes. London. Diabetes UK (Sectariat) .