Campaign cuts number of 999 call outs for diabetes-related emergencies

By Editor
13th September 2021
Education, Good practice Hypoglycaemia Research

An education campaign has helped to “significantly” reduce the number of recurrent emergency call-outs to people with diabetes suffering hypoglycaemia across the East Midlands.

The research behind the initiative is being shared to mark Hypo Awareness Week, which runs from Monday, September 13, to Sunday, September 19, and aims to raise awareness of hypoglycaemia to healthcare professionals in the UK and Ireland with hospitals across the UK and Ireland taking part.

Hypos occur when blood sugar levels drop too low and with research showing that around one in 10 people who have a severe hypo will have another one within a fortnight, an education campaign was developed.

It saw the roll out of a booklet, Hypos Can Strike Twice, issued by paramedics following a hypoglycaemic event to try to prevent future ambulance attendances. Along with the booklet, ambulance staff also provided patients with information on accessing follow-up care by GPs or specialised diabetes teams.

Research carried out by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands, in collaboration with the East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, shows the Hypos Can Strike Twice intervention had a positive impact.

The study of 4,825 patients experiencing hypoglycaemic events attended by the ambulance service over the course of two years indicated a significant decrease in repeat attendances for hypoglycaemia, compared to the pre-intervention trend. The Hypos Can Strike Twice booklets cost around £3.70 to issue, including staff time using it, compared to an ambulance attendance costing up to £257.

The resource has also been shown to provide a significant improvement in the information, advice and treatment given for hypoglycaemia delivered by ambulance staff. 

Professor Niro Siriwardena, a Professor of Primary and Prehospital Health Care at the University of Lincoln, who led the study, said: “Although hypoglycaemia can be serious if left untreated, it is possible to treat the condition and prevent a future episode, if action is taken early. Prevention, instead of reaction is always favourable, so we wanted to see what impact the Hypos Can Strike Twice booklet has on people when it comes to dialling 999 for hypoglycaemia.

“The new process of care was found to work, was easy to use, acceptable to patients and prevented recurrent hypos. By reducing potentially unnecessary calls to the ambulance service, it may also decrease hospital attendances, thereby reducing pressures and costs for ambulance services and hospitals.”

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, who is the Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: “This is an important study because it shows that by improving education, we can ease the pressure on the NHS and improve the quality of life for people experiencing severe hypos. This study is also another example of how we are working to bridge the gap between research and frontline healthcare, ensuring evidence is adopted sooner leading to improvements to services and people’s lives.”

It is estimated there are up to 100,000 emergency call-outs annually for hypoglycaemia in the UK, costing £13.6 million per year to the NHS, with each admission to hospital costing about £1,000.

Patient education has been identified as being important for maintaining glycaemic control and preventing recurrent hypoglycaemia.

The East Midlands Ambulance Service reported that: “The Hypos Can Strike Twice patient information leaflet has assisted the EMAS clinician to give up to date, detailed and effective safety netting advice which can be left with the patient. It has encouraged collaborative working with referral to the specialist services when required, to ensure the patient gets the advice they need to manage their condition.”

This free booklet will soon be available for all ambulance services to use and provide to their staff and patients. To register your interest in receiving the booklet, click here

Photo by PNW Production from Pexels

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