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Working with patients with diabetes

Partnerships between patients and clinicians are as important as those between primary and secondary care in providing high-quality diabetes services, claims a report out today.

There are an estimated 2.35 million people living with diabetes in England - and this is set to rise to 2.5 million by 2010, due to an aging population and a rise in obesity.

The report by Dr Sue Roberts, the National Clinical Director for Diabetes, says that innovative ways of delivering services and more joined up care in community settings is vital for the NHS to continue to provide first-rate services to the growing number of people with diabetes. For example, moving overbooked annual assessments with long waiting lists out of hospitals and into GP surgeries means more comprehensive check-ups, less duplication of tests and a more convenient service for people with diabetes.

Dr Roberts said: "Self-management is key for people with diabetes to have control over their everyday lives. In any year, the average person with diabetes will spend three hours being cared for by a healthcare professional and 8,757 hours looking after themselves, so the NHS also needs to engage patients - helping them to get the skills and confidence they need to control their own diabetes."

Speaking at the "Long Term Conditions Alliance Conference", Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt commented: "NHS diabetes services have already progressed enormously in recent years. Investment has increased: £3.5bn of NHS money is spent on diabetes every year - that equates to about £9.6m a day or £111 every second. We are making significant progress towards identifying the previously estimated 'missing million' people with diabetes.

"People have told us they want more information and more support to help them control and improve their health. That's why we are changing the way we provide care.

"There are already excellent examples of putting the patient in control - such as the example in Northumbria, where people with diabetes are sent test results prior to care planning appointments, which then revolve around the patient's goals and how the healthcare system can collaborate and support them.

"Future good practice should see newly diagnosed people put in the driving seat right away, backed by a multidisciplined primary care team and a programme of care tailored around their needs."

Diabetes is exceptional in the range of healthcare professionals involved - as well as specialists, the roles played by GPs, practice nurses, ophthalmologists and podiatrists are essential.

But one of the most important aspects of care is the role played by the patient themselves. Currently, only one in 10 people with diabetes has been on an education course.

Dr Roberts added: "I would urge the NHS to think radically about new approaches to care - not just tweaking existing systems - to ensure that NHS services now and in the future are able to cope with increased demand, delivering consistently high-quality care and working with patients to determine the best approach for their care."