COVID-19 ‘renews momentum’ to improve hospital diabetes care

COVID-19 has ‘renewed momentum’ to improve hospital diabetes care, according to an Inpatient Care Lead at Diabetes UK.

Olivia Burr has told online publication, Open Access Government, that although the pandemic impacted all forms of care delivery across the UK, lessons have been learnt along the way.

Throughout August 2020, Diabetes UK interviewed 28 healthcare professionals and hospital teams across the UK about their experiences of delivering inpatient care during the first peak of the pandemic. The results, which were published in Inpatient Diabetes Care during the first COVID-19 wave,  some structural changes were beneficial.

‘Adapted and reorganised’

She said: “In some cases, inpatient teams were disbanded, with diabetes specialist nurses redeployed to provide general ward care across hospitals. This led to the perception among those interviewed that inpatient diabetes care was compromised, with clinicians feeling less able to deliver high quality and safe diabetes care. In these hospitals, we urge that diabetes teams are retained to ensure the care for people with diabetes is not compromised.

“Across the country, many teams adapted and reorganised their inpatient services to deal with demand. Surprisingly, in some cases, disruption to inpatient diabetes services created positive environments and opportunities for new ways of working.”

The report also found that technology was used more, with web-linked glucometers, electronic patient records and prescribing, online referral systems, and video conferencing introduced.

It is now vital we harness the refreshed momentum for positive change and embrace new opportunities and insights to improve diabetes inpatient care delivery across the UK

Olivia said of the inpatient staff they spoke to, many of them felt a “heightened visibility and awareness of diabetes teams within the wider hospital”.

She said that a lot of them also felt a “sense of recognition among colleagues of their key role in helping maintain patient safety and flow through the hospital system”.

‘Unpredictable nature’

Concluding her article, Olivia said: “It is vital to explore how the benefits seen during the first wave can be sustained to help minimise the variations in care highlighted in the Getting it Right First Time report. We need both a short and long-term response to ensure that teams are equipped to deliver sustained high-quality diabetes care, despite the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.

“Despite the challenges of providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic, those interviewed described a revelatory opportunity to deliver inpatient services in ways they had always sought to. Healthcare professionals are determined to retain these new-found ways of working and to ensure that diabetes inpatient care remains recognised and prioritised.

“It is now vital we harness the refreshed momentum for positive change and embrace new opportunities and insights to improve diabetes inpatient care delivery across the UK.”

Diabetes UK has provided a series of recommendations to help hospitals and local health systems as they continue providing diabetes care during the second wave of the pandemic.

• All hospitals must have a dedicated multi-disciplinary team of specialist diabetes inpatient practitioners as indicated in the NHS Long Term Plan. These teams must be retained to ensure that care for people with diabetes is not compromised.

• Diabetes inpatient teams must be deployed effectively to maximise their value and provide safe, effective care for people with diabetes.

• Technology such as web-linked glucometers, ketone meters, electronic patient records and inpatient diabetes dashboards and video call equipment must be available in hospitals.

• Hospitals and local health systems must ensure appropriate support and protection for staff physical and mental wellbeing.

• The NHS Long Term Plan commitments to ensure universal coverage of diabetes inpatient specialist nurse teams must be urgently actioned.

Photo by Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) on Unsplash