NHS RightCare Pathway: Diabetes: The Magnificent Seven

NHS RightCare is a programme committed to reducing unwarranted variation to improve population health. NHS RightCare is about delivering the best care to patients, making the NHS’s money go as far as possible and improving patient outcomes. All 207 local health economies are now using the RightCare approach and the programme is working at both a national and local level, through a team of NHS RightCare Delivery Partners to implement this approach. Dr Partha Kar, Associate National Clinical Director for Diabetes, at NHS England explains how this works in practice when it comes to diabetes.

The NHS RightCare Pathway: Diabetes looks at specific areas of intervention where the return on investment is likely to have the biggest benefit beyond the financial benefits. It also looks at clinical areas which need to be tackled in order to benefit the population living with, or at risk of developing, diabetes.

There are seven key areas which are the point of focus. These align with the Five Year Forward View and the cardiovascular prevention optimal value pathway. Identification of those at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and increasing attendance in the Healthier You: the National Diabetes Prevention programme (NDPP) are both priorities.

Identifying people with Type 2 diabetes earlier is understandably a key focus with emphasis on the correct diagnosis and prioritisation at an earlier stage to help prevent future complications. This also touches upon the importance of correctly diagnosing Type 1 diabetes, to prevent diagnosis at admission, as well as genetic subtypes, all of which have significantly different treatment paradigms compared to Type 2 diabetes.

Safety within hospitals continues to be an issue as per the National Diabetes Inpatient Audit. With about 4% of patients with Type 1 diabetes going into Diabetic Ketoacidosis or two out of five drug charts having errors related to diabetes, the focus is on safety.  The NHS RightCare Pathway: Diabetes has made this a priority for acute trusts. Inpatient diabetes care is now an issue which all trusts have a responsibility to tackle, especially in light of the fact that 17-20% of inpatients at any given time have diabetes as a co-morbidity.

The majority of diabetes foot amputations are preventable, yet we continue to experience issues in this area but there is a real drive to reduce this across the country. We’re starting that journey by raising awareness amongst patients and professionals, self-management and access to multidisciplinary clinics as well as other opportunities.

According to the National Diabetes Audit, attendance at structured education programmes continues to be poor.  This has to change and we have to understand and overcome the barriers which contribute to poor and low attendance. A significant number of patients still report not being offered or provided diabetes care education. We need to understand whether it’s timing or the modes of delivery and there should also be focus areas for improvement, along with increasing awareness amongst professionals about the benefits education can bring in a long-term condition.

In line with the Five Year Forward View, another major focus is on variation of care. The national audits show a huge degree of variation in markers and the onus is on all policymakers and professionals to help reduce this level of variation.  The CCG Improvement & Assessment Framework (IAF) shows starkly the variation in care across the country and the hope is that with support from NHS RightCare this will improve over time.

Finally, NHS RightCare Pathway: Diabetes also brings to the fore the importance of highlighting Type 1 diabetes care as a priority area. The needs, training and fundamentals of Type 1 diabetes care do differ from Type 2 diabetes care. It’s important to focus on this area, especially when looking at the data from the national diabetes audits.

The publication of this document highlights what’s needed for a Type 1 diabetes service, the need for commissioners and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) to recognise this as a part, yet a distinct entity from Type 2 diabetes, keeping in mind the role of access to technology in Type 1 diabetes e.g. Insulin pump use, continuous glucose monitoring use, as per NICE guidelines.

Transitional services also need to be embedded, with smooth handover from paediatric departments, again, an area of huge variation in the country.

The theme that runs throughout is the need to reduce variation, base interventions on evidence and gain maximal benefit, clinically as well as on a financial basis. These are exciting times for diabetes care with availability of the transformation funds and digital interventions from NHS England also focussing on these areas with NHS Improvement also looking at reducing variation as part of their GIRFT work.

Only time will tell how successful these priorities are but it certainly helps set the tone for areas to focus on. The challenge now is for all systems to dovetail into delivering these seven priorities with support from all stakeholders including clinical networks, the NHS RightCare team and of course the NHS England diabetes team.

Professor Partha Kar

Professor Partha Kar is National Specialty Advisor, Diabetes with NHS England and co-author of the national Diabetes GIRFT report.

He has been a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust since 2008- and pioneer of the Super Six Diabetes Model which is recognised as one of the good examples of integrated care.

He has helped to expand use of technology in Type 1 Diabetes- namely use of Flash Glucose in Type 1 Diabetes and CGM in Type 1Diabetes pregnancy along with online digital self-management platforms- while recently leading on real world data collection on Closed Loops for subsequent NICE review. He has worked subsequently with NICE on updating relevant guidelines in non-invasive glucose monitoring access in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.

His other work has involved introduction of frailty into QoF treatment targets, Diabulimia pilot projects in the NHS; championing “Language Matters” and helping to create an overview of Diabetes care in Primary Care Networks. Recent work has focussed on transitional care models- as well as tackling inequalities in technology access based on deprivation and ethnicity.

He is one of the leading users of social media in diabetes care – and writes a monthly blog for the British Medical Journal.

He has also been:

  • Co-creator of TAD (Talking About Diabetes) – TED talks from those with T1Diabetes
  • Co- creator of Type 1 Diabetes comic (Volume 1 to 4)
  • Co-creator of DEVICES (Virtual Reality educational modules in diabetes)

Beyond diabetes, he also recently taken a role in tackling issues of racial disparity in the medical workforce as the Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard lead for NHS England. He has also been named as one of the most influential BAME individuals in healthcare in 2020,2021 and 2022.

Follow Partha on Twitter: @parthaskar

One comment

  1. Rob F says:

    But isn’t the right patient mindset the most important thing? And that goes some way beyond just offering DESMOND or similar.

    Staff training on patient activation and application of nudge techniques etc don’t look very important based on the article above. Which is a shame.