Opinions

2017 – a happy new year for Scots with Type 1 diabetes?

Written by: Kirsteen Murray, Interim National Director, Diabetes Scotland

Published: 04/01/2017

2017 provides an opportunity to encourage greater self management and the infrastructure to better support people who live with diabetes.

We have come a long way in the treatment of diabetes.  Less than 100 years ago, before insulin was discovered, people with Type 1 diabetes would have survived only a matter of weeks.  Towards the end of the last century, we were still relying on urine testing to determine glucose levels and people had a very specific eating regimen to follow with insulin injections at set times using glass syringes. Testing devices became more sophisticated, with disposable syringes followed by pens for injecting insulin. However, the processes to monitor and manage diabetes remained invasive. Now, we are standing on the threshold of a technological revolution.

Diabetes is a serious and complex condition which can lead to life-limiting complications if not managed well. Heart attack, blindness, lower limb amputation and premature death are only some of the consequences that can occur as a result of prolonged uncontrolled blood glucose levels. Around 80 per cent of NHS Scotland’s spend on diabetes is to treat these avoidable complications.

As well as the physical health implications, diabetes can have an adverse impact on a person’s everyday life. People who experience severe symptoms may lose their driver’s license and possibly their livelihoods.  For children, the risk manifests in ways including interrupted schooling due to regular episodes of illness, sometimes requiring a hospital admission.  In turn, parents’ lives are affected as, aside from the worry they have for their child, they may have to take regular time off work and can never get a full night’s sleep due to the need for blood testing.  The burden of managing diabetes means that people are 6 times as likely to suffer with mental health problems.

Diabetes technologies such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) are revolutionising everyday life for people with Type 1 diabetes for both blood glucose testing and insulin delivery, with more exciting developments, such as the artificial pancreas, on the way. The Scottish Government has just announced £10M funding for diabetes technology, showing that our ambition for world-class diabetes services in Scotland is not just rhetoric, but is being backed with financial resources to turn that vision into a reality.

2017 will be a big year for diabetes self-management as we put together a plan in Scotland for investment in technological devices, and the e-health infrastructure that allows patients access to remote monitoring of their condition and online contact with their healthcare professionals. The contract for procuring diabetes technological equipment will also be renewed in 2017, again providing the opportunity for Scotland to lead the way, not just buying  “kit” but the integrated digital solutions that people need and want.

This is an exciting time. We can look forward to an improved quality of life for many people living with diabetes, fewer complications and long term financial savings for our health service. It is a one-off opportunity. Together we must make it work!

For more information please visit the Diabetes Scotland website. (This link will take you away from our website)

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