General practice nurses play a ‘vital role’ in supporting people living with diabetes and must continue to help raise awareness of what has been described as a ‘widely misunderstood condition’, a leading charity has told.
As the number of people living with diabetes across the UK tops five million for the first time, Nursing in Practice has spoken to senior clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, Katie Bareford, about the importance of general practice and community nurses in this field of care.
Ms Bareford highlighted how nurses working in general practice and in the community were often the health professionals that have ‘the most contact’ with people living with diabetes and are therefore essential in providing holistic and person-centred care.
Nurses also play a ‘key role’ in educating the public about healthy living and helping to raise awareness of diabetes, said Ms Bareford.
Figures from Diabetes UK, published last week, showed 4.3 million people in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are now living with a diagnosis of diabetes. The charity also estimates that an additional 850,000 people in the UK are living with diabetes but are yet to be diagnosed, taking the overall figure beyond five million for the first time.
Ms Bareford told Nursing in Practice: ‘Nurses in the community and general practice play a vital role in supporting people living with diabetes, empowering people to self-manage their diabetes through regular reviews and signposting them to information and education resources.
‘They will often be the healthcare professional that people with diabetes have the most contact with and they can provide holistic care to people that focuses on the person as an individual, not just their diabetes.’
She added: ‘Nurses also play a key role in educating people about healthy living, raising awareness of diabetes, and identifying people that are at risk of diabetes.’
Ms Bareford said it was vital that ‘everyone knows their risk of developing type 2 diabetes’ and pointed to a Diabetes UK tool which nurses can signpost patients to.
‘It’s also important to raise awareness of diabetes amongst patients and staff as it’s still a widely misunderstood condition,’ she said.
‘The more we can do to educate people and reduce the stigma around diabetes, the more people will come forward for testing if they experience any symptoms or feel that they are at risk.’
Latest registration figures for diabetes were up by 148,951 in 2021/22, and more than 2.4 million people are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the UK, according to Diabetes UK.
Approximately 90% of diagnoses are of type 2 diabetes, and around 8% of diagnoses are type 1 diabetes, with the other forms of the condition making up the remaining 2%.
Diabetes UK has also highlighted the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes among those under the age of 40 and in areas where there are higher levels of deprivation.
Although the number of under 40s with type 2 diabetes remains a small proportion of total cases, it is known to have more severe and acute effects on younger people.