England’s chief nurse officer, Jane Cummings, has spoken out to people with newly diagnosed diabetes and raised awareness of difference between Type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Jane Cummings has urged young people newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes to respect their condition and ‘not to let it define them’. The chief nurse was 19 when she was diagnosed with Type 1 and has needed to inject insulin several times a day ever since.
One in four people in the UK now live with either Type 1 or 2 diabetes and people with the condition are responsible for 95% of their own care.The value of diligent diabetes self-management is more crucial than ever however, awareness on how to do this is low. NHS England aims to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes, which affects 10% of people with diabetes.
As a teenager and student nurse, Jane was determined to take control of her condition after caring for a patient who had needed a double amputation and had gone blind. But as she learned to manage her diabetes she realised, with a bit of planning, the likelihood of complications was vastly reduced.
Around 303,000 people are living with Type 1 in the UK, the peak age for diagnosis is 9-14 but it can be diagnosed as a young child or an adult. It is an autoimmune condition not caused by lifestyle factors. If left untreated Type 1 diabetes can have devastating affects including amputation, blindness and kidney disease.
Jane, now in her 50s, said: “I found it a bit daunting when I was first diagnosed as I was looking after a lady who had had both legs amputated and was blind because of it. But I haven’t let it define me or let it stop me doing anything.
“I trained as a nurse and worked in many different roles including A&E where I needed to be available at the drop of a hat and be flexible. My current role involves a lot of travelling and evening work but you just have to get on and take care.”
Jane said she learned about diabetes as a student nurse but even when she developed symptoms including weight loss and being tired she initially assumed it was down to the very hard work and being a first year student.
A Sister on Jane’s ward at the time she started insulin had a daughter who had Type 1 and, together with Jane’s diabetic nurse specialist, was very supportive in helping her have the confidence to manage her diabetes.
“They helped me look at the food I was eating and think about how much insulin I was giving myself,” she said. “I did have to rethink some of my diet, I used to have sugar in tea and I probably cut back on cake, chocolate and sweets. I have a sensible balanced diet but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun,” she said.
Jane continued: “Some people say it is a restriction on the things you can do but I say it’s far better to look after yourself, treat your diabetes with respect, don’t mess with it and if you do that you’ll be fitter and healthier and have fewer complications. In the long run it’s the right thing to do.
“Type 2 tends to occur later in life and it’s something you can prevent but it doesn’t mean once you’ve got it you can’t manage it. There are some people with Type 2 who don’t have to take anything at all – but the best advice is to look after your health and lifestyle and avoid developing it if you can.”
Dr Partha Kar, Associate National Clinical Director for Diabetes for NHS England, has developed a new way to help young people with Type 1 diabetes understand their condition through art – by turning them into comic book superheroes.
With Revolve Comics he and his team are transforming patients’ understanding of the condition with the hope of spreading the Type 1 diabetes message. For those readers who are newly-diagnosed, they will feel more empowered to look after themselves and see it is possible to live a long, healthy life with Type 1.
Dr Kar, also a Consultant in Diabetes & Endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said that they aim to start the discussion with diabetic children as soon as possible.
“Educating children at young ages about taking regular medicine, needles and a life-long condition can be very scary for them but through using fun and interactive mediums and appealing to them in different ways we can tap into their imagination and begin to educate them subtly,” Dr Kar said.
NHS England has also launched Healthier You: the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme which started this year across England with a first wave of 27 areas covering 26 million people, half of the population, and making up to 20,000 places available.
This will roll-out to the whole country by 2020 with an expected 100,000 referrals available each year after. Those referred will get tailored, personalised help to reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes including education on healthy eating and lifestyle, help to lose weight and bespoke physical exercise programmes, all of which together have been proven to reduce the risk of developing the disease.