Test diabetes patients in practices to slash hospital bills, says DoH czar

The government's diabetes czar has urged practices to spend more time on vital diabetes checks in order to improve management of the condition and avoid hospital admissions.

GPs should be taking advantage of regular contact with these patients to carry out the full set of nine NICE-advised tests, according to Dr Rowan Hillson, the DH's national clinical director for diabetes.

Speaking at a diabetes seminar in London, Dr Hillson said: ‘These tests are not rocket science. Why are people not getting them?’

Ensuring the tests are done could cut the numbers presenting to hospital as emergency admissions, she said.

Her comments follow last year’s National Diabetes Audit, which showed that while 86.6% of type 2 diabetes patients had their BP measured, only 52.9% had all nine of the key health tests in 2009/10.

These include checks for BMI, BP, smoking status, HbA1c, urinary albumin, serum creatinine, cholesterol, retinopathy and foot health.

She advised practices to check their own results from the National Diabetes Audit to see where they can improve.

‘I know that practices are incredibly busy, but it’s worth taking the time to look, because a slight change in the organisation of the practice can ensure improvements,’ she said.

She suggested patients were ending up as hospital emergency admissions as a result of the checks not being done. ‘It could be because they [patients] have had an infection, that might not have lead to their hospitalisation if they’d had good glucose control or had their flu jab.’

She added that there was a huge lack of confidence over diabetes among junior doctors.

A survey published by Diabetes UK in May found that 43% of vacant posts for diabetic specialist nurses were unfilled in 2010 due to cost savings initiatives in trusts.

Dr Hillson said: ‘I don’t understand why hospital trusts don’t have specialist in patient diabetes nurses. They’re worth every penny that their salaries cost.’

Last month, NICE set out plans to make GPs screen almost all adults for risk of type 2 diabetes and offer blood tests to thousands of patients.

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