Specialist structured education and support from diagnosis for people with type 1 diabetes can lead to improved blood sugar levels

By Editor
19th April 2024
Diabetes UK, Education Type 1 diabetes

New data presented today at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2024 has shown that the Scottish Type 1 Education Programme (STEP) equips people with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes with skills to self-manage their condition.

Keeping blood sugar (HbA1c) levels within a target range is crucial to help people living with type 1 diabetes stay healthy and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications, such as heart attack and stroke.

In Scotland, the national target for HbA1c levels – average blood sugar levels for the last two to three months – is below 58 mmol/mol, to reduce the risk of diabetes complications.

Developing models of diabetes care in Scotland to support people living with type 1 diabetes to meet this target has been a priority.

NHS Forth Valley developed the Scottish Type 1 Education Programme to provide structured education for people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Prior to STEP, structured education programmes were designed for people who had already lived with diabetes for some time.

A multi-disciplinary team from the diabetes service within NHS Grampian modified and introduced STEP into clinical practice in their service and analysed HbA1c levels before and after the programme was introduced.

Between February 2019 and August 2022, 206 people with type 1 diabetes in NHS Grampian were enrolled in STEP.

STEP consists of eight to 10 sessions designed to equip people with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the complexities of self-managing the condition.

Training starts on the day of diagnosis and support is delivered by a team of experts, including diabetes doctors, specialist nurses and dietitians face to face to people with type 1 diabetes.

The team found that prior to STEP, only 42 per cent of people had an HbA1c level that met Scotland’s national target range of below 58 mmol/mol a year from diagnosis.

After STEP was introduced, the percentage of people meeting the target increased significantly, with 60 per cent on average meeting target range 12 months after their diagnosis. This compares to 48 per cent achieving this HbA1c range in Scotland as a whole.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition affecting nearly 400,000 people in the UK. The condition occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. This means the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Dr Alasdair Cooper, Diabetes Speciality Registrar from Diabetes Department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary said: “Type 1 diabetes is a life-changing diagnosis.

“As a team we are delighted at the impact that STEP has made in supporting those with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes in NHS Grampian.

“We feel that the success of the introduction of this programme – pioneered by NHS Forth Valley – is due collaborative working across our talented team.”

John Kinnear, National Director, Diabetes Scotland, said: “Structured education is key to helping people with type 1 diabetes effectively manage their blood sugar levels.

“These findings provide real world evidence suggesting that introducing diabetes education courses, such as STEP, at the start of someone’s diabetes journey can lead to substantial improvements in blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces people’s risks of devastating diabetes-related complications.

“We want to make sure people with type 1 diabetes get support to live well with the condition at the point of diagnosis.”

For more information about diabetes, visit diabetes.org.uk.

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