Better hospital care sought for diabetic patients

Calls have been made to improve hospital care for diabetes patients as a fifth of inpatients suffer potentially life-threatening blood sugar lows.

Alyssa Faulkner nearly had a hypoglacaemic episode in hospital. Picture: Contributed
Alyssa Faulkner nearly had a hypoglacaemic episode in hospital. Picture: Contributed

Around 15 per cent of hospital patients have diabetes and these people often have longer stays than patients without diabetes, regardless of the reason for admission.

Many people are forced to stay in hospital for up to five extra days due to hypoglycaemic episodes, where blood sugar levels plummet, causing headaches, shakiness and confusion.

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In the most severe cases patients can become unconscious or suffer seizures.

A pilot is under way in Scotish hospitals to teach staff how to treat the condition as charity campaigners found many medics are not confident on how to deliver insulin or what to do when someone’s blood sugar drops, a conference in Stirling will hear today.

The pioneering Diabetes Think Check Act programme which has been trialled in Glasgow and Lothian, has already seen a 20 per cent reduction in hypoglycaemic episodes.

Now campaigners want to roll it out across the whole of Scotland, as more than 276,000 people are living with diabetes across the country.

Linda McGlynn, patient and healthcare professional manager at Diabetes Scotland, said: “When you go into hospital you are usually told to bring your tablets with you. Then staff will take them off you to administer them.

“The problem is, if you have diabetes, you are often used to managing your own condition. Then when it is taken away, you don’t have access to it if you need it.”

Some wards lack food supplies, which can help patients raise their blood sugar quickly, or do not have the specialist diabetes staff, she said.

The pilot provides ready-made “hypo boxes” for hospitals, which contain medical guidance as well as glucose tablets or drinks if the patient can swallow, or gels to use if they cannot consume food.

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Every Scottish health board would benefit from the pilot, which could reduce lengthy hospital stays and cut the cost of treating avoidable complications, which costs NHS Scotland £1 billion per year.

Dr Stuart Ritchie, consultant physician at NHS Lothian and pilot clinical adviser, said: “The number of inpatients in hospital with diabetes is increasing.

“While it might not be why they are in hospital, their diabetes is very important in understanding their care.

“There is no reason why this couldn’t be used in every health board in Scotland.”