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Preventing Type 2 diabetes across northern England’s STPs

As part of Diabetes Prevention Week (16-22 April), Dr Caroline Sprake looks forward to the roll-out of the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme in the north of England and explains how has the potential to transform the lives of patients at risk of Type 2 diabetes in the area.

The northern England sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) are very excited about finally getting going with the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP). We are part of the final roll out of the programme, which targets those at risk of Type 2 diabetes and offers them a place on a lifestyle change programme. Type 2 diabetes affects over 186,000 people in our area and on a daily basis we are picking up more and more people at high risk of the disease; but who have the potential to reduce or even remove their risk by making changes to their eating habits and their activity levels.

The advantage of the NHS DPP is that it aims to equip people with the knowledge and skills they need to make small changes that can make a big impact to their health via tailored, personalised support – not just empty words of advice.

Locally, “trailblazer” practices (more than five in each clinical commissioning group area) are preparing to begin referring people onto the programme. Once NHS DPP groups have been established, other practices will be coming on board to ensure the whole community of practices makes Type 2 diabetes prevention a priority.

We are using Diabetes Prevention Week (16-22 April 2018) to promote the newly available service to both healthcare professionals and potential participants. We have encouraged practices to order Diabetes Prevention Week toolkits for their surgeries and postcards advertising the Diabetes UK Risk Score; an online tool which enables individuals to assess their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by answering a few simple questions; they can then ask their GP for a blood test if their score is high.

Part of the risk score relies on knowing your waist measurement; I am personally encouraging everyone to get their hands on a tape measure (from their toolboxes, sewing kits or IKEA!) to give the risk score a go – knowing your numbers has never been so important.​

The ‘Know Your Risk’ postcards (supplied by our local Diabetes UK representative) also allow patients to request a free pack of information related to Type 2 diabetes, risk, prevention and lifestyle changes. Every little bit helps as we know that not everyone will be able to take part in the NHS DPP – and it is vital we make diabetes awareness part of what we do in day-to-day General Practice.

In June last year when work on the programme was gaining momentum, the northern England STP area (Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and North Durham) identified nearly 40,000 people with a blood test suggesting they were at high risk of type 2 diabetes. We hope to refer at least 8,000 people to the NHS DPP and reduce the ever increasing wave of people diagnosed with the condition.

South Durham, Darlington, Teeside, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby area trailblazers are also very active and clusters of practices are coming together to deliver this vital programme. It is hoped in excess of 6,250 referrals will be achieved in the first year making a real difference to some of the most deprived areas in the Northern region (and the UK).

Research from fourth year medical students at Newcastle University looking at potential barriers to engagement for people diagnosed with mental health issues shows that their worries and concerns are the same as anyone faced with thinking about a change in behaviour; It’s not easy! A key recommendation from their study is the ability to bring a carer or family member along to support them – the “Plus one” effect. This reduces anxiety about being in a group and provides onward support after the sessions to carry out lifestyle change. It is also essential that programmes are placed in familiar sites and as much information about the programme is provided before attending.  We are working closely with the service provider in our region to ensure these are features of the NHS DPP in our area.

We are hopeful that the programme will encourage the uptake of other resources available in our community such as exercise classes, walking groups, swimming offers and weight management programmes. The whole health and social care economy should benefit from this and boost the wider “wellbeing” agenda. We want people to remain as people not “patients with a health need”.

I often say to patients with Type 2 diabetes, “You now have the same risk of having heart disease as someone who has just had a heart attack”; that can help to show the seriousness of the condition and now is the time to support people to make some real changes towards a healthier life. The NHS DPP is another way in which we can help and I am grateful we have an additional service available to patients at risk of type 2 diabetes in our region to help reduce their risk, and that of many more serious health problems in the future.

Dr Caroline Sprake

Dr Caroline Sprake has been a GP for 26 years at Lane End Surgery and is now GP lead for diabetes for the clinical network for northern England. She has always had an interest in diabetes and is delighted to see the diabetes prevention programme be opened up to the whole of the UK.

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  1. Oaks Cross Pharmacy, Stevenage says:

    Dear Dr Caroline Sprake,

    Exactly what is needed- a look at how to prevent Diabetes. Please involve Pharmacies in the programme as customers come into a Pharmacy more often and trust their Pharmacist.
    We have done a project with our patients to study how diet and exercise plays a major role in preventing Type 2 Diabetes. I have tried talking to Public Health and our CCG but this programme needs to be done nationally and involving pharmacies as well.