Charities call for ‘higher priority’ on the back of audit
Leading diabetes charities have called for the condition to be given a “higher priority” following the “alarming” results of a nationwide bedside survey.
The latest National Diabetes Inpatient Audit published today has revealed that over a fifth (22 per cent) of patients with diabetes in hospital will have experienced a largely avoidable hypoglycaemic episode, also known as a hypo, in hospital within the past seven days.
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “If you are in hospital then you have a right to expect safe care and, for people with diabetes, this includes regular monitoring of blood glucose levels and making sure they get food and insulin at the right times. If this is done properly, then the risk of patients’ blood glucose levels falling too low are greatly reduced.
“This is why it is greatly concerning that one in five patients experience low blood glucose during their stay. But what is really shocking is that one in 50 inpatients with diabetes have their blood glucose falls so low that it becomes a medical emergency, which in some rare cases can lead to life-changing disability or death. When you consider that almost one in six hospital inpatients has diabetes, this means that preventable cases of blood glucose falling too low are happening in frightening numbers.
“While many hospitals have done great work over the last couple of years in establishing diabetes specialist teams, protocols and education, this audit highlights that there is much more to be done. It shows that low blood glucose levels are just one of a number of things that go wrong in hospital healthcare. For example, a third of inpatients with diabetes experience a medication error during their stay, while about one in 50 are not given enough insulin and so become life-threateningly ill.
“These are not just faceless statistics. Over the last few years we have seen too many tragic cases of people with diabetes who have died because hospitals did not look after them properly and this will continue to happen until we see real changes to the way hospitals care for people with diabetes.
“Firstly, we need to see sufficient diabetes inpatient specialist nurses in every hospital, as there is strong evidence they improve people’s health and, by reducing length of stay, also save the NHS money. We also need systems in place to make sure all clinical staff in hospitals have a basic understanding of how to look after people with diabetes and, where appropriate, let patients manage their own condition in the same way they do at home.
“But this kind of improvement will not happen by itself. We need to start giving the issue of safe hospital care for people with diabetes a much higher priority, or we will see more patients being harmed unnecessarily and the cost of diabetes increase accordingly. We are calling for clinical commissioning groups and the trusts that run hospitals to act urgently on this as this is the only way we will see this grave lack of patient safety brought to an end.”
Sarah Johnson, Director of Policy and Communications at Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “Hypos are what people with Type 1 diabetes hate most. They are dangerous, leading in extreme cases to loss of consciousness and even death.
“JDRF is therefore alarmed to learn from this report that such a high proportion of people with Types 1 and 2 diabetes are experiencing avoidable hypos in hospital. They have a right to expect that the nature of their condition will be fully understood by all medical staff when they pass through a hospital’s doors.”