Mental health ‘must be considered more’ as part of diabetes care

By Editor
14th May 2019

Two diabetes specialists are encouraging healthcare professionals to become “facilitators, not fixers”, as a way of empowering people with long-term conditions.

Dr Charles Fox and Dr Anne Kilvert, consultants from Northampton General Hospital, run a specialist diabetes counselling and empowerment course for healthcare professionals,  which focuses on training participants to work with people to identify ways of improving their own diabetes care.

The announcement comes as Diabetes Scotland urges the government to secure funds so people with diabetes can access psychological support. The charity said people with the condition are twice as likely to experience depression yet, across the UK, 40 per cent of GPs say they are not likely to ask about emotional wellbeing and mental health in routine diabetes appointments.

‘Substantial changes’

Dr Charles Fox, who co-founded the Knuston Diabetes Counselling and Empowerment Course in 1987, said: “This course has been running for more than 30 years and over this time, we’ve made substantial changes to the content and delivery to reflect changing attitudes.

“The core principles are to help healthcare professionals listen to the needs of their patients and take into account their emotional and psychological needs. This collaborative approach enables people to work out for themselves the best way forward in managing their diabetes.

“The course gives attendees the chance to learn both the principles of empowerment and communication skills underpinned by a person-centred philosophy.

“Historically, doctors and nurses are trained to be detached and directive, but we’re trying to change that. Knuston attendees discover the importance of empathy. It’s all about showing the patient that we understand their situation and rather than trying to fix their problem, we’re asking them what they themselves would like to do. It’s about becoming facilitators, not fixers and we must start considering the whole person, rather than focusing solely on their diabetes care.”

Together, their work has helped transform the way doctors and nurses approach speaking to people with diabetes who are struggling to control their condition.

To raise awareness of healthcare professional empowerment they will present at this year’s Diabetes Professional Care as part of the DPC Mental Health & Wellbeing Zone, which is being officially launched next week.

The area has been specially developed for this year’s conference to better equip healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to improve their understanding of the emotional and psychological challenges faced by people with diabetes.

Dr Anne Kilvert, who joined the Knuston team in 1997, said: “We’re honoured to have been asked to present at DPC2019 and we’re so glad the team is hosting a zone dedicated to mental health, which is such a huge part of diabetes care.

“We’re seeing a real shift in healthcare, with the emphasis being on patient self-management. When it comes to mental health there’s still some work to be done, but having a platform at DPC means we can further educate and inspire healthcare professionals who are looking at the best way forward when it comes to treating their patients.

“We would particularly welcome anyone who has done the Knuston course to one of our workshops – we are hoping to reconnect with previous Knuston Graduates.”

DPC2019 is the UK’s largest free-to-attend, CPD-accredited  conference.

The two-day event gives healthcare professionals the chance to share good practice and innovation with a specific focus this year on multi-disciplinary working.

DPC2019 will take place at Olympia London on October 29 and delegates are invited to attend presentations and workshops on a variety of topics, such as the childhood obesity strategy, type 2 diabetes reversal and diabetes burnouts.

Click here, to register for DPC.

Photo credit: Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

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