Diabetes 101

When Coronavirus hit the UK and measures were being taken to put the UK into lockdown, a groups of diabetes healthcare professionals planned an exciting new social media account to support the diabetes community. Beth Kelly, Liaison Type 1 Diabetes Specialist Nurse explains more about @Diabetes101_.

There was a lot of information flying around and people with diabetes were understandably confused. We could see the distress it was causing on social media and were receiving lots of direct messages asking for advice.

Prof Partha Kar, Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology in Portsmouth and NHS National Specialty Adviser on Diabetes, approached Amanda Epps and myself – both diabetes specialist nurses and chairs of the Diabetes Specialist Nurse (DSN) Forum – with an idea for an account that could respond to diabetes queries from patients and their carers. As a trio, we started straight away in getting a team up and running. We approached people who specialise in diabetes, that had a strong social media presence and were twitter savvy – and we were blown away by the amount of healthcare professionals who joined ranks to help, especially considering this would be in their own time, on top of full time jobs at an already busy time for the NHS.

We wanted to alleviate fears around COVID-19 as well as provide people with a secure base to gain reassurance and reliable resources from. We also wanted to provide some emotional support for those who were staying at home during these times too. We wanted to create something which would act as signpost, boost morale and give people some structure to their days in lockdown. We wanted it to be fun, laid back and informative.

@diabetes_101 was born at 8am on 23 March and has gained nearly 5,000 followers so far. It has been reaching over 170,000 impressions a day and has provided direct advice to hundreds of people since its launch. The group did not offer clinical advice, but were able to point people in the right direction for further information and resources that could help, such as the Diabetes Technology Network (DTN), The Association of Children’s Diabetes Clinicians (ACDC) and charities such as Diabetes UK and JDRF and give general advice and support.

As well as ensuring there was always someone on hand to man the account with members of a Multi-Disciplinary Team on back up to help answer specific queries, we also held Q&A sessions and a number of fun activities, including cooking and baking activities, talent spots, a book club, a pet gallery, virtual globetrotting, afternoon tea picnics, quizzes and party nights.

We also ran a number of engaging “education tweetorials” for both adult and paediatric audiences, with discussions and interactions on things which matter to people living with all types of diabetes devised by the team, but also some guest tweet hosts. They covered topics such as medication and exercise. Diabetologist, Dr Prash Vas presented a slot on foot health and Retinopathy Research Officer, Dr Becky Thomas presented the most engaged tweetorial all about retinal screening and eye health.

Paediatric Endocrinologist, Dr May Ng presented on the practical management of continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and flash monitoring in children and young people, offering plenty of reminders of the sick day rules that are so important in the COVID-19 era. Clinical Nurse Specialist in Diabetes Alison Cox also ran a session on how to get the most out of a virtual consultation with your diabetes team, something which was really needed in these times. We also had three fun “big bank holiday quizzes” which was a fun way to engage everyone with some education on diabetes matters. The quizzes had some of the highest engagement with over 200 votes per question.

We also anticipated community need. Ahead of the data on diabetes and COVID-19 being released we prepared frequently asked questions and a long list of links and signposting to the correct and updated information. This was shared over 50,000 times from twitter alone. We got the feeling that this really helped the anxiety that came from that day, as there were much less enquiries than we expected.

The group had over 4 million interactions in around 8 weeks and we hope that our efforts went some way to relieve some of the pressure on GP surgeries and diabetes teams.

This project started out as a once in a lifetime short lived idea, but due to the amount of interaction we have had, as well as the positivity from the community, we are hoping to try to keep the account open and continue to engage and offer education in this really interactive and intuitive way.

Diabetes 101 has been an absolute blast, we have had the best time curating it and engaging with people with diabetes, and those who care for them. It was a lot of work on top of our day jobs, as we all volunteered our time for free but it was all worth it to demonstrate to people living with diabetes that we are all one team.

Meet some of the Diabetes 101 team in this short video.

Beth Kelly

Beth has worked in the NHS for 16 years. She is a DSN in Southampton specialising in the care of type 1 diabetes. Beth also has a special love for all things young adults and tech!

Beth is a co-chair for the DSN Forum Team & an editorial Board Advisor for @DRWFDiabetes. She is also about to complete her 1st year in her @MScDiabPrac! Beth also lectures in diabetes subjects and has spoken nationally. She has published various work with leading nursing journals.

The DSN Forum Team won the @QICProgramme award for Healthcare Professionals of the Year in 2018.