Extra support for patients who have a diabetes emergency

The Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN) has teamed up with the East of England Ambulance

The Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN) has teamed up with the East of England Ambulance Service to help diabetics when they experience a hypo because of very low blood sugar levels. Pictured at (L-R) Heidi Cobb, clinical educator, paramedic Steve Rix, and patient Donna Dymond. - Credit: Archant

Patients across the East of England are to benefit from extra support to help prevent a repeat of a diabetes emergency.

The Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN) has teamed up with the region's ambulance service to help diabetics when they experience a hypo because of very low blood sugar levels.

There are about 300,000 people with diabetes in the East, and every year the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) receives around 10,000 emergency calls from people having a diabetes emergency.

A new project, funded by the Eastern Academic Health Science Network; has launched which will ensure improved care for people with diabetes who have a hypo and call out the ambulance service.

A team of 12 project managers and educators across the East of England has been funded by the EAHSN for two years, which will look at reducing hospital admissions and ambulance attendances as a result of hypos. These staff are placed in hospitals in Norwich, Cambridge, Colchester, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Stevenage.


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Many patients with severe hypos have had limited advice on hypoglycaemia avoidance, and the risks for hypoglycaemia, and GPs and hospital teams are not always made aware of these events.

People with diabetes attended by EEAST staff after a 999 call out will be now referred to the new pathway, and will be offered education sessions with the project's clinical educators, where the cause and future prevention of hypoglycaemic episodes will be discussed.

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Professor Mike Sampson, who is a consultant in endocrinology at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and chairs the Diabetes Clinical Study Group (CSG) leading the project, said: 'The issue of severe hypo in people with diabetes is more common than we realised with up to 10,000 emergency calls per year in the East of England. This puts a lot of pressure on the region's ambulance service, A&E departments, and admission wards, and we hope that this project will reduce some of this pressure over the next few years.'

Amanda Harries, the Diabetes CSG programme manager, said: 'The project aims to bring together GP and hospital teams across the region to deliver this new education for patients; we are working closely with the East of England Ambulance Service to ensure that all patients who are referred are contacted and offered an education session which will provide them with the information they need to avoid future hypoglycaemic episodes. The response from the ambulance crew has been fantastic and we are seeing referral numbers increase every week. Patients referred to the new pathway have been very receptive to the support and education offered.'

Helen Hall, clinical project manager for EEAST, said: 'The Diabetes Hypo Project went live in Norfolk and Great Yarmouth and Waveney on December 17. Since then, it has received over 90 referrals from crews. This is a great result by our crews who know that when referring a diabetic they will get the help they need to better manage their diabetes and so reduce 999 call outs and possible visit to A&E.

'We are due to roll out in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire in February with the rest of the East of England will follow shortly after.'

Donna Dymond, who recently benefited from an education session at her GP surgery with Norwich clinical educator Heidi Cobb, said: 'The service provided to me after I fell unconscious due to severely low blood sugars was fantastic. I received a call, within a few days as my attack was during the weekend, from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital asking if I would like to visit them to discuss my recent hypoglycaemic attack and if they could offer any assistance to help with my diabetic control.

'Luckily I am hypo aware, but unfortunately, due to stress, my body couldn't cope. It was nice to know that my incident was followed up instead of brushed under the carpet. There are many diabetics who do not understand how to control their condition or how to treat a hypoglycaemic attack. This service will help to identify those people who may be lacking in information about how to manage their diabetes'.

For more information about the project visit www.eahsn.org and for more information on diabetes and hypoglycaemia visit www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Complications/Hypos-hypers/

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