Top UK nurse slams state of diabetes nursing

Debbie Hicks
Debbie Hicks

Leading nurse consultant and DCP2018 speaker, Debbie Hicks, says the state of diabetes nursing in the UK is “extremely worrying” and, if remained unchanged, the country could face a “ticking time bomb of poor health”.

Hicks, who has been in nursing since 1990 and is Co-founder of Trend-UK (Training, Research and Education for Nurses in Diabetes-UK), says: “We’ve got big problems. More people need help in primary care, but when they’re referred on to see a diabetes specialist nurse (DSN), there may not be one. These people are becoming more complex and we just don’t have the specialist nurses to support them.”

To make matters worse, a huge number of DSNs are due to retire in the next few years, she says.

Commenting on the 2017 National Diabetes Inpatient Audit findings that more than a quarter of hospital sites don’t have dedicated diabetes inpatient specialist nurses, Hicks says: “I think this is extremely worrying because the amount of people with diabetes who are sat on the wards is rising year on year and, if nurses don’t have the right skills, then people with diabetes are not going to get the appropriate care they need.

“With the number of people with diabetes rising and the number of diabetes specialist nurses getting lower, we could be looking at a ticking time bomb of poor health.”

Trend-UK is working hard to encourage more nurses into the diabetes sector. “Things will only change when we can raise the profile of diabetes specialist nursing,” says Hicks. “We also want to develop a specific diabetes specialist nursing course and qualification that equips a nurse to become a skilled and competent DSN.

“Until we’ve done that, we are going to have a variation in knowledge and skills because the role of the DSN has become somewhat blurred over the years. With lots of different titles – diabetes nurses, diabetes specialist nurses, practice nurses with a special interest – how do we ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and, more importantly, patients are receiving the right care?”

Hicks, who has had type 1 diabetes for 45 years, is based at the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust. She is highly experienced within the field of diabetes, publishing more than 130 diabetes research papers.

• Debbie Hicks will present sessions in the Co-morbidities conference stream and at the FIT-UK and Trend-UK Theatre at DPC2018

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