The Big Interview – Toby Baker

By Editor
9th October 2020
CPD, Education

Toby Baker is Event Director of Diabetes Professional Care (DPC), the largest conference for healthcare professionals with an interest in the field of diabetes in the UK.  

For the first time ever, the event is going virtual to ensure the safety of everyone amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite moving online, DPC2020 Virtual is still free and CPD accredited with many exciting plans yet to be unveiled.  

Connect with DPC on Twitter at @diabetespc or using the hashtag #DPC2020.

What can we expect from DPC2020 Virtual?

We have a reputation for being at the forefront of diabetes education, so we’re putting all our energy into ensuring DPC2020 becomes the number one virtual event in this year’s diabetes calendar. It’s been all hands-on deck, but I’m very confident that we’re on track to fulfil that.

DPC2020 Virtual is going to be the most cutting-edge, online event that any healthcare professionals are likely to attend this year.

We’re still delivering completely free education and CPD-accreditation, but the platform we are using for the professional conference is going to provide people with the opportunity to network and meet online with friends and colleagues in a unique way.

As soon as healthcare professionals register to attend, the platform will be learning about their preferences to ensure they see the most relevant sessions, exhibitors, and training opportunities. In addition, they can choose and plan from the agenda and hear some of the world’s leading diabetes experts speak about their specialist areas.

The whole event has been developed as part of DPC’s commitment to MDT working, providing free education and sharing good practice to all healthcare professionals working within the field of diabetes.

What else is different this year?

We’ve changed the timings a bit to help make attending a little easier alongside people who may be working. So, DPC2020 Virtual will run on the 11, 12 and 13 November with each day’s programme starting from 8.30am to 2pm and then in the evening, sessions will start back up again from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

Those three days are open for all healthcare professionals and will be suitable for all levels of experience and specialisms – from policy-level through to senior clinicians, primary care, community care and those that have just started their careers in relation to diabetes.

We have lots of engaging panel discussions lined up where visitors can expect to hear from the UK’s key opinion leaders, and their colleagues on the front line of diabetes care.

But, this year we’re running a fourth day too, which we’ve never done before. Saturday, November 14, is being run in partnership with DRWF and is an education and information virtual event for people with diabetes, which healthcare professionals are also welcome to attend. We urge healthcare professionals to share information about this day of education with their patients.

What are the main objectives of Diabetes Professional Care?

From the outset, we wanted to provide healthcare professionals with much needed access to education and information that is delivered in a format which they can use straight away in the healthcare setting that they’re based.

This year has been a fast learning curve for everyone, but in particular the medical profession, which have been forced to adapt to new ways of working and learning because of COVID-19. We felt that the need for DPC was even greater this year because of that and we are hoping to hear about some pretty radical new ways of working and how diabetes teams across the country have had to adapt to ensure the people with diabetes are still receiving the standard of care that they deserve.

Whilst we do include it at DPC, the delivery of complex data and science, whilst hugely important to underpinning care and treatment, is not of direct relevance and importance to the majority of HCPs who really need opportunities to develop practical, real-world skills and knowledge to help them on the front-line of care when they are caring for people.

What has been DPC’s biggest achievement been so far?

Prior to 2020, I think I would have said bringing together thousands of healthcare professionals all under one roof and providing them with free education. But, I now think one of the single, greatest achievements we have done is having turned the entire two-day physical show into a four-day online extravaganza in a short space of time.

None of us have ever done this before, we were literally starting from scratch. I don’t mind admitting there were a few sleepless nights for a while, there probably will be a few more as we get closer to the big day, but it’s coming together and the team and I are really excited to welcome our visitors virtually in November.

We’ve been running a series of digital education sessions this year which have given us some invaluable experience of what works well and is most valuable to our audience.

Our sponsors have been incredibly supportive and the feedback we’re hearing from frontline healthcare professionals is they need and want DPC2020. There’s no other diabetes conference like it, and those within the field of diabetes know this, which is why we knew the show had to go on, no matter what.

Aside from getting DPC2020 Virtual ready, what else has the team been doing?

We recognised very early on that the pressure the NHS was under in treating COVID-19 was significant. Overnight the delivery of care among both primary and secondary services changed dramatically. All of a sudden, people with diabetes couldn’t physically see their diabetes specialist nurse or doctor because of the high risk of infection. It was a frightening time for everyone and healthcare professionals didn’t have the answers. But, research and finding new care delivery approaches were being discovered pretty much on a daily basis, so we wanted to find a way to bring all the information together, allowing those working within the field of diabetes a chance to share, learn and discuss the latest findings.

So, that’s why we launched the DPC Digital Hub which has become home to all the online content we’ve brought together over the course of lockdown and beyond.

These have included AstraZeneca-supported weekly virtual educational meetings which focused on managing type 2 diabetes, as well as the DPC Summer Forum which were led by key opinion leaders who dissected some of the main findings from the ADA virtual conference.

We had no idea how popular the DPC Summer Forum would be when we launched it amid the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown. Since then we’ve received some incredible feedback, with one participant telling us that the sessions they viewed had provided them with an educational lifeline to the ADA conference. We had to run a second part to this series ‘Rebooting Diabetes Care’! All sessions are available for download on our website.

What impact do you think COVID-19 will have on the healthcare profession in the future?

It’s still so early to say isn’t it? I think a lot depends on how quickly a vaccine is made available but the healthcare services have adapted amazingly and improved treatments mean they are better equipped to treat people suffering from COVID. But, I think COVID-19 has forever changed the landscape of how healthcare services are delivered. Certainly, from what I’ve been hearing among healthcare professionals is that phone and virtual appointments are here to stay, for the initial appointment anyway.

Obviously with diabetes, face-to-face is required for certain examinations such as feet and eyes. For the younger generation I think this approach will be welcomed as it frees up everyone’s time, makes check ups so much easier as there’s no travel involved, but this approach is not going to suit everyone. So, I think the medical profession is going to have find a way to meet in the middle, so they can ensure that people’s health isn’t being compromised and they’re still having their diabetes care checks met.

Have there been any highlights for you over the course of DPC’s digital approach these last few months?

I think the speed that we delivered the DPC Digital Hub sessions was pretty impressive to be honest. We were very dynamic setting that up. I am also very proud of the content we provided, which was obviously appreciated as we saw so many people join the online webinars. We welcomed anything from 250 to almost 1500 attendees per session which was really encouraging for the team here.

The fact that these high-level healthcare professionals and key opinion speakers readily agreed to take part, despite being under pressure with COVID-19 and their normal daily duties, also speaks volumes about DPC’s reputation. A big shout out to Dr David Strain here for his expert chairing abilities as he was involved in every single session of the DPC Summer Forum series. He was an invaluable addition and great to work with.

Another highlight was getting highly respected Professor John McMurray who led the DAPA-HF trial to agree to take part in one of our sessions. His research, which found that dapagliflozin reduces new-onset of diabetes cases by almost a third among adults with heart failure, is expected to have a significant impact on future diabetes treatments.

Have you learnt anything over the course of the last few months?

I’ve learnt that teamwork is essential in order to move forward on a large project, patience is also vital when people are already working under extreme conditions and working from home with a new baby is not always easy!

I’m extremely proud of how we, the DPC team, have adapted so quickly to ensure that we meet the needs of our stakeholders. Maggie and I couldn’t have done this without the support of our marketing lead, Romain, who led on the delivery of our DPC Digital Hub and his expertise and hard work has really paid off!

What do you do in your spare time?

I love being outdoors and I’m in a perfect place for this in the New Forest – so lots of time spent walking the dogs and bike riding on trails! An abundance of spare time is a thing of the past though as we have a new baby girl who arrived mid-lockdown in May!

Do you have anything else to say?

I would like to take the opportunity to thank our sponsors, who really are the backbone of DPC. Without their support, none of what we do here would be possible. Also a huge thank you to the many healthcare professional speakers who understand the mission that we’re on.

I also want to thank the healthcare professionals out there who continually tell us what they want. This allows us to tailor our agenda specifically each year, ensuring we’re addressing the very latest issue that frontline staff are dealing with. We hope everyone enjoys DPC’s first virtual show and we’ll see you online in November!

To register for DPC2020 Virtual, click here.

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