4 in 10 GPs Unlikely to Offer Diabetes Emotional Support

Nicky Broyd

May 14, 2019

A report from Diabetes UK is calling on the NHS to offer more support to patients dealing with the mental health side effects of living with diabetes.

An online survey for the charity found 40% of GPs were unlikely to ask patients about emotional wellbeing and mental health during routine diabetes appointments.

Only 30% of the 1007 GPs polled online last November felt there were sufficient emotional and psychological support services available for diabetes patients who need them.

A further survey of 2316 adults with diabetes found 7 out of 10 felt overwhelmed by living with the condition. Of those, three quarters said this affects how well they manage their diabetes.

'Constant Struggle'

The charity said devolved health services in all parts of the UK should have national standards for diabetes emotional and mental health care. These should include patients being asked how they are feeling during diabetes appointments. Mental health professionals with specialist diabetes knowledge should also be recruited into diabetes care teams.

Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said in a statement: "The day-to-day demands of managing diabetes can be a constant struggle affecting people's emotional wellbeing and mental health. In turn, people tell us that struggling emotionally can make it even more difficult to keep on top of self-management."

He continued: "Diabetes services that include emotional and psychological support can help people improve both their physical and mental health, reduce pressure on services, and save money.

"Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, but services for people with diabetes don’t always reflect this. We need to bridge the divide between physical and mental health services to ensure those with emotional and psychological difficulties related to their condition do not have their needs overlooked. It is critical that all diabetes care sees and supports the whole person, and explores what matters most to them."

Best Practice

The report, Making emotional and psychological support routine in diabetes care, highlights some areas of best practice.

  • The Hackney Diabetes Centre Psychology service in London supports people experiencing diabetes distress, depression, or anxiety impacting diabetes self-management. Therapy is provided one-to-one and in group sessions.

  • The Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust's 'Diabetes Care for You' integrates mental health support into diabetes services. Psychotherapists working in the team use cognitive analytic therapy (CAT).

  • The Kingston Diabetes Day Unit & iCope services in London saw diabetes care teams partnered with local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services. Therapy sessions are held in the diabetes day unit to provide emotional and psychological support alongside routine care.

  • King’s College Hospital, London's Three Dimensions for Diabetes (3DFD) service specialises in helping patients who have difficulty managing diabetes due to psychological or social issues. The integrated team includes a consultant psychiatrist, clinical psychologists, and community support workers. When the new service was compared with standard care in another London borough, 3DFD was found to be more expensive but it did result in improved blood sugar control.

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