Education scheme to prevent diabetes could cut future GP workload

Educating patients at high risk of developing diabetes before they develop the condition is cost-effective and could help cut future GP workload by reducing complications, researchers say.

University of Leicester researchers developed a programme – Let’s Prevent Diabetes – to deliver structured education to patients with impaired glucose regulation before they develop diabetes, to prevent future problems.

The scheme is being formally evaluated to assess its suitability for roll-out across UK primary care. If implemented, it could allow GPs to refer patients identified through screening - such as the NHS Health Check - as having a high risk of developing diabetes.

Intervention has been shown successfully to prevent patients from developing diabetes, and it is hoped that rolling out Let's Prevent Diabetes could reduce the number of microvascular and macrovascular complications, cutting GP workload by making patients' symptoms easier to manage.

Estimates suggest that up to 15% of UK middle-aged adults will be identified as having impaired glucose regulation through screening – which NICE says puts them ‘at high risk of developing diabetes’.

Impaired glucose regulation

The programme can be delivered over one or two days to between five and 12 patients at a time. Two separate programmes were developed, one suitable for white European groups and another specifically aimed at South Asian patients, who have a particularly high risk of developing diabetes and may have different cultural and language needs.

It encourages self-management for their symptoms using simple, non-technical language and visual aids.

In the course of the study, 49 participants from Leicestershire – who had been identified as high-risk in primary care – enrolled onto the programme. A further 24 patients enrolled on the South Asian programme.

Results, published in the Journal of Public Health, show that the intervention programme brought about beneficial changes to patients’ short-term behaviour, including healthier eating patterns, improved health beliefs and greater participant motivation and empowerment.

Prevent diabetes

Lead author Professor Melanie Davies said: ‘The early evidence is very promising because, as the only type 2 diabetes prevention programme specifically developed in the UK, Let’s Prevent Diabetes has the potential to really make a difference.

‘The most efficient way to address the problem of diabetes and its complications is to prevent it from developing – taking a proactive rather than reactive approach.’

GP Professor Kamlesh Khunti, also an author on the study, told GPonline: ‘The cost-effectiveness in terms of impact on GP workload has not been modelled but there is evidence that diabetes prevention programmes prevent microvascular and ultimately – although after many years – prevent macrovascular complications.’

Photo: Jim Varney

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