North East Essex Diabetes Service shortlisted for award

By Editor
6th September 2018
East of England

A service providing care for people with diabetes across North East Essex is in the running for a leading healthcare award.

The North East Essex Diabetes Service (NEEDS), which provides support for people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, has been shortlisted in the Optimisation of Medicines Management category at this year’s Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards.

The team has been recognised for its innovative ‘Virtual Ward’ project, which takes a holistic approach to care and has helped patients to better manage their condition.

Each locality in North East Essex now has a dedicated community nurse who has a special understanding of diabetes. Together with a Diabetes Specialist Nurse – supported when necessary by a consultant from Colchester Hospital – they meet monthly to review and manage patients’ medication and highlight areas of concern.

As a result, 57% of people have changed their medication and insulin regimes. The Virtual Ward has also saved 1,796 community nurse visits, the equivalent of 345 hours, allowing the team to focus on patients most in need.

There has also been less GP involvement, fewer ambulance callouts and a smaller number of hospital admissions for diabetes-related cases, helping to reduce pressure on the wider healthcare system.

Sheila Smyth, NEEDS Chief Nurse and Director of Community Care Services at Suffolk GP Federation which manages NEEDS (pictured above), said: “We have a high prevalence of diabetes in North East Essex and an ageing population. As a result, the community nurses found that their caseloads for insulin managed patients were increasing. At the same time, specialist nurse visits and hospital admissions were rising because patients were unable to manage their condition. It was putting the wider healthcare system under a lot of pressure.

“The Virtual Ward has gone some way to address that. Patients’ conditions continue to be reviewed on a regular basis and there is greater coordination of patients receiving their essential diabetes healthcare checks. It means we can effectively monitor patients under the care of the community nursing teams to ensure they are receiving the most appropriate treatment regimes.”

NEEDS work alongside GP surgeries and run community clinics across Tendring and Colchester, providing care closer to home and educating patients on how best to manage their condition.

The Virtual Ward was established in partnership with Anglia Community Enterprise following close working with North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, local GPs and patients.

“It’s been a great team effort and I would like to thank everyone for their continued support and assistance,” Sheila added.

The HSJ Award nomination caps a successful few months for NEEDS, which has also been shortlisted in three categories of the Quality in Care Diabetes Awards 2018 which take place in October.

The HSJ Awards recognise healthcare excellence across the UK. They will be held in London in November.

To find out more information about NEEDS, visit

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