DSN Spotlight – Helen Atkins
The role of the diabetes specialist nurse is hugely important in ensuring high-quality diabetes care. We caught up with Helen Atkins, who is based in Leicester to find out what her views are on diabetes care at the moment and what she wants to see change.
Job title: Advanced Nurse Practitioner-Diabetes
Trust: University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust
Time in position: 1 month/worked in diabetes since 2000
What’s your biggest challenge in diabetes today?
I am the lead for inpatient care for University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. The national inpatient population is 17 per cent (NaDia, 2015), my trust has an overall population of 24 per cent with some specialities having above 50 per cent bed occupancy.
Generally the numbers of people being admitted to the Trust has increased, which mirrors our ageing population and the increasing prevalence of diabetes.
The lack of resources within our own team can be very challenging but we remain passionate and all strive to deliver the best care possible. It is becoming increasingly difficult to secure funds for DSN posts which can delay proactive recruitment thus affecting delivery of our service.
What’s been your biggest achievement in diabetes care?
I am a member of the Diabetes UK Council of Healthcare Professionals of which I am Co-Chair. Only too often we hear of people with diabetes not receiving the right support to enable them to manage their condition and reduce their risk of complications.
I would like to think I campaign on behalf of people with diabetes to provide timely access to specialist care when they need it. On a more personal note achieving a MSc in diabetes was a real challenge and something I am proud of.
What would you like to see change in diabetes?
Commissioners must make sure all hospital trusts have access to specialist diabetes teams. There is evidence that the right team can reduce the need for hospital admission and that inpatient teams can reduce prescribing errors.
DSNs are in short supply with many experienced DSNs due to retire in the next five years. There is little recognition by stakeholders of the issues facing DSNs.
It is clear postgraduate pathways need to be put in place to ensure we have the right skills to support people with diabetes in the future.
What’s been the biggest development in the last 10 years?
The introduction of audits. Nationally we now have audits for inpatient care, children and young people, foot, pump and pregnancy.
The publication of these audits puts diabetes in the spotlight and on Trust agendas. With this publicity and improved transparency, care and knowledge about diabetes we can only improve and reduce variation in care.
What is the best way to achieve good health outcomes with your patients?
Focusing on inpatient care, we know evidence tells us that DSNs are cost effective and improve clinical outcomes as well as reduce length of stay. Therefore it seems sensible to promote, in an ideal world, agreed pathways of care and the right skill mix and establishment of staff is essential.
Having accessibility to diabetes services as an inpatient is crucial to improve outcomes and staff knowledge, but most importantly to provide a better, safer patient experience.