This site is intended for health professionals only

Nurse shortages endangering lives of children with diabetes

Children with diabetes are at increased risk of severe hypoglycaemic episodes and long-term complications such as blindness, kidney failure or amputations because paediatric diabetes specialist nurses (PDSNs) are severely overstretched, according to a report released today by leading health charity Diabetes UK.

The report, Access to Health Services, Diabetes UK Primary Care Trust and Local Health Board Progress Survey, on the progress of primary care organisations in 2008 shows that some PDSNs in primary care trusts (PCTs) in England look after more than 150 children, compared to the recommended 70. Such a large caseload does not allow nurses the necessary time to help children manage their diabetes and give them individual advice and support.

The report also shows that the PDSN caseload in 35% of PCTs has increased since 2007, and less than 7% of PCTs have improved their PDSN caseload. This is despite the fact that more than 80 per cent of children with diabetes are not achieving recommended blood glucose levels - the cornerstone of good diabetes management.

Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: "This situation needs to be addressed urgently. Specialist nurses play a vital role in diabetes care and management. With many nurses having to cope with more than twice the recommended number of children, it is no wonder four out of five children have poor blood glucose control.

"Services must improve now otherwise our children risk developing serious, long term complications of diabetes such as losing their sight or needing kidney dialysis in later life. The Government promised six years ago to improve specialist care and ensure a healthy future for all children with diabetes, but standards remain patchy. It's high time they delivered on their promise."

The report also found that some PCTs, such as Brent PCT, do not employ any PDSNs at all and others, such as Birmingham Heartland PCT and City and Hackney PCT, are not even aware of the exact caseload of their PDSNs.

Diabetes UK believes that is is vital that all children have access to a PDSN as part of their specialist care team, as their needs are so complex and they can often struggle with managing their condition.

Diabetes UK

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"It is amazing that those who control the purse strings don't see how important it is to put the funds in things that matter like health and education. This is what's happening all over the world. Of course, the less number of nurses there are the more the diabetic children will suffer. There is only so much any nurse can do." - Evelyn Guzman, Florida, USA