Why must diabetics in West Norfolk rely on charities to pay for potentially life saving equipment?
A coroner is meeting with health commissioners to find out why diabetics have to rely on charities and fund raising by hospital staff to buy potentially life saving equipment.
Norfolk’s senior coroner Jacqueline Lake said she would raise concerns with the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning group (CCG) at the end of an inquest into the death of 31-year-old quartermaster Sam Cooper, who died at his home in King’s Lynn on August 7, 2016.
Mr Cooper, who had battled type 1 diabetes for more than 20 years, was fitted with an insulin pump in December 2015, after suffering a series of hypoglycemic attacks.
At first, the attacks receded, his inquest heard. But medical staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital became concerned that he was keeping his blood sugar levels high and this could cause further complications.
Mr Cooper’s case met guidelines issued by the National Institute Clinical Excellence (NICE) over the funding of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) equipment.
But the inquest heard he did not meet guidelines operated by West Norfolk CCG and hospital staff instead fitted him with a monitor bought by a charity fund.
They hoped the equipment, fitted after a hypoglycemic episode rendered him unconscious for 24 hours on July 29, 2017, would reveal patterns which might explain his attacks. Its sensor transmitted information to Mr Cooper’s insulin pump and could also shut off the supply of insulin if his blood sugar levels fell.
In her summing up, Mrs Lake said on August 1, Mr Cooper told a psychiatrist he was becoming frustrated by his lack of independence.
Glucose sensors have a limited life span. Mr Cooper was offered a replacement before his expired on August 6.
Mrs Lake said: “He declined because he did not want to be reliant on the CGM device.” Mr Cooper was pronounced dead at his home the following day.
Mrs Lake said there had been debate over the cause of Mr Cooper’s death but she had concluded it was through natural causes - a hypoglycemic attack and diabetes treated with an insulin pump.
Mrs Lake added she was satisfied that the care Mr Cooper received at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital had been good. She said she would be meeting the chair of the CCG on December 18 with regard to funding for monitoring equipment.
In a statement after the hearing, Mr Cooper’s family said: “When Sam was your friend, and he made friends easily, you immediately knew that he was very special and that you were very, very lucky. Having Sam as a son, brother, grandson or indulgent, fun uncle was an even more amazing gift. His premature loss hugely impacts us all, family or friend and inevitably will do so forever.
“Sam had battled his diabetes on a minute by minute basis for nearly 23 years, with all his awareness, intellect and good humour but diabetes is a cruel, non-relenting foe.
“The three days of Sam’s inquest has revealed that certain diabetics under the local hospitals are not routinely provided, in a timely manner, with access to the materials and training specified in the latest NICE guidelines.
“Without timely access to the correct support and equipment, diabetes finds it easier to win and to maim or to kill.
“We now know that the adult diabetes team at the QEH uses patient-facing time to battle bureaucracy to get funding to purchase the very equipment which potentially could have saved Sam on 7th August 2017 and that is just plain wrong.
“The support he did get was funded by local charities supported by front-line QEH staff, completely independent of the trust or the Clinical Commissioning Group.”
The CCG has been approached for a comment.