Diabetes: the team approach

By Philip Newland-Jones and Anna Hodgkinson, Consultant Pharmacists in Diabetes

People with diabetes need the support of a full multidisciplinary team more than ever, and utilising pharmacists trained in diabetes care are an essential part of this vision.

Statistics from Diabetes UK show that one person is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes every three minutes in England and Wales, and 500 people with diabetes die prematurely every week.  It is estimated that the NHS currently spends 10% or £10 billion of its annual budget on diabetes and its complications.

We know that over 65 year olds with Type 2 diabetes have on average six to seven other health concerns, often needing multiple medicines. Both the Long Term Plan and the NHS Interim People Plan recognise the value and impact pharmacists can have to improve outcomes for people living with long term conditions, including diabetes. This paper outlines a clear vision for pharmacy and the need for the NHS to utilise pharmacists alongside other healthcare professionals across all care settings to improve the care of people with Type 2 diabetes.

In the past, pharmacists have held a more traditional but key role in the management of diabetes, including being an integral part of improving medicines safety and supporting medicines optimisation. Over the past few years, recognising the skills and positive impact on care pharmacists can have both with individuals and at a population health level, we have seen a change in mindset. Increased numbers of pharmacists are now working in diabetes and Consultant Pharmacist posts have been developed. Although this is a start, as highly trained and skilled professionals, we know we can do more whether this is at a GP practice, care home, a community pharmacy, hospital, or Integrated Care System level.

The direction of travel for pharmacy in the management of Type 2 diabetes is clear. We have a huge role to play alongside our healthcare professional colleagues in improving outcomes for people with Type 2 diabetes, after all supporting people with diabetes needs the full multidisciplinary team more than ever.

We are excited for the opportunities that the RPS policy document, The Long Term Plan and NHS Interim People Plan will bring for pharmacy and we look forward to working with the profession over the coming days, months and years to promote and support the role of pharmacists within all care settings to improve outcomes for people living with Type 2 diabetes.

It is important to note that pharmacists cannot do this alone, we need the right environment for development, the support and mentoring from colleagues with experience in diabetes care such as practice nurses, diabetes specialist nurses, GP’s, specialist dietitians, podiatrists.  The only way we are going to be able to effectively tackle diabetes across all care sectors is to ensure this seamless teamworking and collaboration is encouraged and cultivated.

We’ve got two things to ask of you:

  • If you are a pharmacist, and you are interested in supporting people with diabetes then please ensure you have thought over what competencies you need to develop using the UKCPA Integrated Career and Competency Framework for pharmacists in Diabetes
  • If you are a healthcare professional working in diabetes in any sector of the NHS, think if your team would benefit from the support of a pharmacist, and if you work with a pharmacist embrace and support their development to ensure they are the best they can be for your team and your patients.

How my pharmacist helped with my diabetes medicine

by Mike Schofield

Although my type 2 diabetes was diagnosed more than 12 years ago, it is only in the last 15 months that I have been medicated.  Prior to that, I had controlled it through diet and exercise. 

On collecting my first prescription for metformin, the pharmacist went to great pains to explain that I should take one tablet each morning and a second tablet each evening on a regular basis and to contact them immediately if I suffered any ill-effects after taking them. We also discussed dietary factors and the need for regular exercise.

The pharmacist then phoned me the following day, on the third day and after one week, to again check that I was taking the medication as prescribed, not suffering any ill-effects and had no questions about the medication.  One month later, when I collected my next prescription, the pharmacist again checked that I was following the instructions and had not suffered any ill-effects as a result of taking metformin.

For the next 12 months I collected my prescription on a regular basis until at the annual renewal the pharmacist asked that I had a consultation with him.  He then asked if I was taking the metformin as prescribed, not suffering any side effects and was following dietary advice and taking regular exercise.  He also asked me to confirm that my feet were being checked by my diabetic nurse and that I received an annual check for diabetic retinopathy.  I as able to confirm that it was the case with both.

In my opinion I have received excellent service from my local pharmacy and am most impressed at the level of care that I have received.

Diabetes care – get involved!

by Professor Mahendra G. Patel, Diabetes Lead, English Pharmacy Board

Today we’ve published our new policy ‘Using pharmacists to help improve care for people with Type 2 Diabetes’. Aimed at policy makers and service commissioners within the NHS in England, it calls for pharmacists in various care settings to be fully integrated into services for those with Type 2 diabetes. This makes way for increased prevention, earlier detection, and better access to diabetes care tailored to individual needs.  

More than five million people in the UK are expected to have Type 2 diabetes by 2025. This is a national challenge in terms of poor health outcomes, economic burden to the NHS, and ever-widening health inequalities largely driven by factors such as ethnicity and deprivation. Each year within hospitals, there are thousands of patients with diabetes experiencing medication errors that could be avoided.

Significant numbers of people are failing to meet the nationally recommended treatment targets in reducing risk of complications associated with type 2 diabetes. Many are not understanding their condition nor adhering to prescribed treatment. In my opinion, this is a critical time to make more effective use of the extensive clinical skills of the pharmacist.

The NHS Long Term Plan recognises the vital role of pharmacists and their clinical skills in supporting patients to achieve better health outcomes, improving patient safety and reducing medication errors. The recent establishment of new Primary Care Networks and the growing maturity of local Integrated Care Systems, together provide unparalleled opportunities for people to receive better access to their pharmacists, more personalised support, and joined-up care at the right time in the optimal care setting.

In line with new and emerging roles for pharmacists and advancing practice, and at a time when technology is set to command a pivotal role in healthcare, our new policy on diabetes builds on our previous national campaigns.

It translates the latest evidence into practice, focusing on helping people to live longer and lead healthier lives whilst ensuring effective and safe use of medicines. It further highlights the need to support services within and across different care settings, where pharmacists can make significant and meaningful differences in improving health outcomes.

It also shows how pharmacists, who are integrated within a specialist diabetes multidisciplinary team, can provide added value and synergy across care pathways as routine daily practice.

Professor Sir David Haslam, Chair of NICE, one of the many organisations supporting our policy states, ‘Diabetes is a public health emergency’. We will continue to press these recommendations to progress this crucial national work.