NHS in Leeds highlights support for people affected by diabetes

For World Diabetes Day (WDD) on 14 November, the local NHS is urging residents to be more aware of the condition, learn how they can prevent or manage it and access support if they need it.

Diabetes is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is not able to use it properly.

In Leeds, out of a population of around 800,000 people, approximately 44,000 people have diabetes, and a further 36,000 are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  People are more at risk if they’re white and over 40 or over 25 if they have African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian heritage.

There are a number of types of diabetes, but the main two types are type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 is where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Approximately 10% of adults and 90% of children with diabetes will have type 1. At present, this type cannot be prevented.

Type 2 is where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react properly to insulin. 90% of adults with diabetes have this type but more than half of all cases can be prevented or the onset significantly delayed for many years.

This year, it’s especially important to be aware of the risk of T2 diabetes and to manage the condition well, because people with diabetes of any kind are more likely to catch coronavirus. While most people will have mild symptoms, people with diabetes can become seriously unwell, as their bodies have to fight with the virus as well as problems caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels.

Dr Bryan Power, Clinical Lead for Long Term Conditions at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Diabetes can cause a number of serious but preventable health problems, and this year, coronavirus poses additional risks.

“While some types of diabetes can’t be prevented and certain risk factors such as age and ethnicity can’t be changed, there are still things that people can do to manage their condition well or to reduce their risk of developing it.

“In Leeds, as in the rest of the UK, we’re seeing more and more people, including children, being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We want everyone to understand that a few simple lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can dramatically reduce their risk of developing the condition.”

“Importantly, if you have diabetes and you notice something you’re worried about – for example, if you’re very thirsty, losing weight, or have a cut or blister on your foot – please contact your GP surgery via the NHS App, via the surgery website, or by phone.

“You may receive a phone call from your practice nurse, pharmacist or GP, or a video-call may be arranged if suitable. This allows us to maintain social distancing and to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. If we need to examine you in person, we will arrange for you to be seen safely. If you can’t get through, or you need help over the weekend, call 111.”

To make it easier to access advice and guidance, people can now refer themselves onto a nationally-recognised support programme.

First, people should check their risk of developing type 2 diabetes at https://riskscore.diabetes.org.uk/start This asks a set of basic questions about age, weight, waist circumference and ethnicity.

If someone is identified as being at risk, they are able to refer themselves to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. This is a free personalised programme to help with weight management, healthy eating and exercise. Sessions are usually held across Leeds but are currently being run online.

If people have type 1 diabetes, they should ask their diabetes team about the support available in Leeds, including the DAFNE programme, which teaches families how to manage insulin and diet.

Other support for people with diabetes includes a new dedicated helpline and online tools to help manage the condition during the pandemic.