Happy birthday to Frederick Banting and Happy World Diabetes Day to you all!
This years World Diabetes Day focuses on Women and Diabetes and the right to a healthy future. Whilst one in ten women have diabetes, treatment and support can be a postcode lottery. As a type 1 diabetic myself I have been very fortunate in the last few years to have been offered an insulin pump but I know and reminded myself such a gift is not to be taken for granted. Because in the past few years I've known women who've had bake sales to fund treatment not available on the NHS, had their prescriptions pushed to be changed without warning or consultation and who have fought an up hill battle to obtain the treatment they need.
This is not to say that the men and women who run diabetes services across the UK should not be thanked for the work they do. So many work tirelessly for an increasing caseload that shows no signs of stagnating, my own support team included. Because despite Diabetes being the fastest growing health threat today, diabetes specialist nurse numbers are faltering. In State of the Nation 2016, a report published by Diabetes UK the organisation found that over a "quarter of respondents reported that specialist nurse posts had recently been cut in their hospital or team, and nearly a third said that posts had been left unfilled". This has led to concerns from both those in the profession and patients about patient safety. One Diabetic Specialist Nurse comments in the report: "I am unable to provide the intensive support to patients that I would like. With more people being diagnosed with diabetes and more complex medication choices available, I feel that our service should not have to be affected by budget cuts."
Cuts to funding means a lack of staff, and a lack of staff mean that services available to individuals with diabetes can be significantly varied depending on how lucky your area is. The State of the Nation found that nearly "one in ten hospital sites did not have any consultant time for diabetes inpatient care and almost one third of sites have no diabetes inpatient specialist nurse available". These positions are vital for those living with diabetes both in times of crisis and day to day activities as Diabetes is tied to every aspect of daily living.
For women this includes everything from period management and sexual relationships to pregnancy. Pregnancy especially requires a significantly high level of support for women with diabetes with a third of babies born to women with diabetes requiring intensive or specialist neonatal care. Diabetes UK reports that first contact with a specialist antenatal diabetes team should happen as early as possible and that "while 52 per cent of women with Type 1 diabetes had their first contact with this team prior to eight weeks gestation", only "37 per cent of women with Type 2 diabetes had their first contact with the team in this time frame. With such an intense level of support needed during such a significant body change concern is mounting over the healthcare systems ability to cater for the mother and the child to the high standard needed.
So on this year's world diabetes day I will be giving special thanks to the women in my life who have had a powerful and meaningful contribution to my wellbeing, namely my specialist nurse Alison Kelly, my diabetic peer Helen Davies and my . I hope we can find an opportunity today to pause a reflect as to how we as a society and a community can better support not only the women living with Diabetes but also those women who work tirelessly so those of us with Diabetes can live as normal and fulfilling a life as possible.