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Delivering a diabetes self-management programme

Rebecca Mills
X-PERT Diabetes Programme

A six-week structured education programme is improving the lives of people with diabetes and helping to tackle one of the most common conditions in the UK

Approximately 90% of people who are diagnosed with diabetes have progressive type 2 diabetes and the X-PERT programme aims to teach people who are both newly diagnosed or have existing diabetes that with the right lifestyle choices, not only can they improve their quality of life but also halt the progression of the condition. This means their long-term health can be vastly improved while the need for NHS support and medication is reduced.

Dr Trudi Deakin, the programme's founder, says: “Patient-centred care is one of the central pillars in managing long-term health conditions and it's vital that people living with diabetes recognise that they can take control of their condition and are given the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills and understanding to do this.”

The programme seeks to support the existing level of care provided to people with diabetes by the healthcare teams within the NHS and gives people the opportunity to further develop their knowledge and gain a better understanding of how to manage their condition independently, ultimately meaning there is less reliance on NHS support.

The X-PERT programme is a six-week course educating people with type 2 diabetes on the basics of the condition. It teaches them that, through lifestyle, a healthier diet and physical activity they can improve their health and quality of life, while dramatically reducing tablet/insulin requirements and diabetes complications such as blindness, heart disease, foot amputations and kidney failure.

It explores different topics each week, including the meaning of health results, diabetes tablets and insulins, weight management, carbohydrates, fats and physical activity, reading and understanding food labels, blood glucose, blood pressure, blood cholesterol control and preventing diabetes complications. The 2.5-hour sessions are delivered once a week and give people the opportunity to interact with other people with diabetes while also exploring and addressing problems or issues attendees may have with their condition.
One session takes participants into supermarkets to actively explore food labels and teaches people how to thoroughly understand what they are reading, allowing them to make better informed decisions about the types of foods they buy and eat - a simple topic which is often taken for granted by the individual.
Another session focuses on different food groups and educates people how to understand precisely what and how much of each food group is required in their diet. A key focus is raising awareness of the importance of carbohydrates and how both starches and sugars affect blood glucose levels, dispelling the myth that people with diabetes must lead a sugar-free diet.

The programme is designed to comprehensively address these day-to-day topics that play a crucially important role in helping individuals to develop the necessary skills to successfully manage their condition.
Dr Deakin continues: “X-PERT draws upon the fundamentals of diabetes and goes back to basics to ensure that people with the condition are fully equipped with the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to be able to successfully manage it.

“People living with diabetes often think they know everything about the condition but it's important that they recognise there is always more to learn. Many people, no matter how long they have had diabetes, are often unaware of how to manage their condition properly as they have not been sufficiently educated and, through no fault of their own, they don't realise that their condition can be significantly improved through the right lifestyle choices.”

The benefits of structured education can be seen in the vast improvements of the lives of the participants who attend the course. A recent audit of 16,000 people who have completed the X-PERT Diabetes Programme has shown significant improvements to diabetes control, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in addition to quality of life. One of the key benefits is the impact it can have on people's reliance on medication. Whereas type 1 diabetes must be managed to a certain extent with insulin, type 2 diabetes, if diagnosed early enough, can be controlled for long periods of time through making the right lifestyle and diet choices before medication is even required.

For people with existing diabetes, receiving the right education delivered in the right way, can lead to a reduced requirement for medication which often leads to a reduction in weight.
Dr Deakin comments: “If people feel empowered to take control of their diabetes before it takes control of them, then this will be a major step towards improving their condition. The key is to build the knowledge, skills and confidence in people to independently and expertly take control and self-manage their condition. The clinical trial and recent audit have show that this results in significantly improved health, lifestyle and quality of life outcomes in the short and longer term.”

Dr Deakin adds: “The fact that the prevalence of diabetes is increasing by 150,000 cases per year means extra pressure on NHS resources. Structured education courses can be the key to helping alleviate these pressures. X-PERT offers a cost-effective solution to managing the diabetes pandemic by significantly improving both clinical and psychosocial outcomes, potentially saving the NHS billions of pounds.

“The traditional medical management of diabetes is integral to diabetes care but costly and has no impact on halting the progression of type 2, whereas sufficiently educating people on the importance of self-management does. Ensuring that people are equipped to take control of their condition now also means they can in the future, meaning that we can work towards reducing the cost and clinical pressures on the NHS even with the prevalence of diabetes continuing to rise.

“NICE recommends that all people with diabetes should be offered structured education as an integral part of their diabetes treatment and it's something we must raise awareness of if we are to have any hope of combating the burden diabetes has on the individual and the NHS.”

Currently, there are over 1,000 healthcare professionals in more than 100 organisations across the country who are trained as X-PERT Educators and the number is growing. X-PERT Educators deliver the six-week programme to participants and lead the way in providing people with diabetes with interactive, informative and simple sessions. Additional material consisting of handbooks, DVDs and interactive games is also available providing further additional support for participants.
People can either be referred by their healthcare professional or can refer themselves onto a local course. Enrolment on to the course is free within the NHS.

To find out where your nearest X-PERT Diabetes Programme is held or to find out how to deliver the X-PERT programme, visit:
Tel: 0845 026 7612