Professor Partha Kar urges people with diabetes to ‘stay home unless essential’ amid COVID-19
One of the country’s leading diabetes experts has reiterated the government’s advice that people with any type of diabetes should stay home if they can, unless it is “essential” they continue working.
Professor Partha Kar, National Specialty Advisor for Diabetes with NHS England, has addressed some of the confusion that the coronavirus regulations have caused within the diabetes community.
Many people with diabetes are concerned about whether they are more at risk of developing COVID-19 and how they should be eliminating the risks.
Professor Kar, also a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “According to current available data, people with diabetes don’t appear to be at a higher risk of developing COVID-19 but if they contract it, the emerging data suggests that having diabetes is a risk factor to developing poorer outcomes.
“Thus, this group has been asked to stay at home, like the rest of the population, unless it is essential for them to continue working. To help reduce the risks, the idea is to try and look after their diabetes as best as possible, along with awareness of sick days rules. It is important to appreciate that the advise is based on data as they become available.”
Key workers who have diabetes have expressed concern about whether they should continue with their job. Professor Kar said this situation is about “being pragmatic”.
He added: “The basic principle is to see whether line managers, Trusts, employers can look at giving jobs which minimise risk to the person, such as virtual working and back room administrative work.
“However, in some cases, this will not be feasible, such as if the person is an Anaesthetist, ITU nurse or GP, just to give a few examples. Due to wider workforce issues and thus in such circumstances, the decision is far tougher and if their roles can’t be covered, when at work, all necessary precautions in regard to avoidance of transmission needs to be followed.”
Key workers with type 1 diabetes have been wondering whether their employer should support their decision if they choose to self-isolate.
Children with type 1 diabetes, at this point and as per data, appear to have a lower risk of harm with COVID-19- but again, this is based on data sets as they become available in a global pandemic Professor Partha Kar
Professor Kar said: “I would ask employers to consider the needs of the individual, reassess how essential their work is, whether alternatives can be provided. Local teams should also have a role in advising accordingly. It’s also important that the individual appreciates the unprecedented times we are in and the need of essential healthcare staff in a national healthcare emergency.”
Key workers who have children with type 1 diabetes have also been left unsure as to whether they should continue going to work.
Professor Kar agreed it was “yet another difficult scenario”, before adding “where the balance is about pragmatism and personal choice, the wider workforce and need of society in these times must also be considered. Of note, children with type 1 diabetes, at this point and as per data, appear to have a lower risk of harm with COVID-19- but again, this is based on data sets as they become available in a global pandemic”.
He has suggested that anyone who needs further guidance should refer to the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD) which has issued a document about children with diabetes and coronavirus.
The published advice is based on input from Paediatric Endocrinologists in Italy and China who have stated that “no cases of COVID-19 in youth with diabetes” required admittance to hospital.
ISPAD has also emphasised the “importance of continued attentiveness to standard diabetes care to avoid the need for hospitalisation and emergency or urgent care visits, but to utilise these resources if needed”.
People with diabetes who have other chronic health conditions have also been wondering whether they are classed as extremely vulnerable. Professor Kar said there is a list for those who are deemed to be extremely vulnerable and thereby advocated to be “shielding”, which means they should be self-isolating for 12 weeks. To see the full list, refer to the Department of Health website or click here.
To support the practice of social distancing Professor Kar has suggested that people with diabetes explore the possibility of attending virtual clinics so they can continue seeking diabetes support from their healthcare teams.
Professor Kar said: “Although there are virtual clinics and phone call appointments available, when it comes to diabetes, self-management will hold the key with people having awareness of sick day rules. However, it’s worth remembering that as COVID-19 spreads it’s likely that a lot of teams will be involved in emergency work and so will not always be available for even virtual routine clinical reviews.”