This hidden condition has left half of sufferers feeling 'unsupported' through pandemic

·4-min read
MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 26: Lila Grace Moss Hack walks the runway at the Versace special event during the Milan Fashion Week - Spring / Summer 2022 on September 26, 2021 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli / Getty Images )
Model Lila Grace Moss Hack walks the runway at the Versace special event with her Type 1 diabetes insulin pump visible. (Getty Images )

Half of people living with Type 1 diabetes in the UK feel unsupported as a result of the pandemic, according to a new report by the charity JDRF. 

A survey of 1,152 adults living with the disease and parents of children who have it found that 47% believe the pandemic is likely to have a long-term negative impact on their lives. 

This is mainly due to missed routine appointments as a result of lockdowns and the volume of staff and resources needed to treat COVID-19 patients. 

Shockingly, 63% of adults with the disease have been unable to access their normal level of healthcare relating to their condition. 

This is significantly higher than people with other chronic health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular problems, where 45% have missed their usual level of care.

Watch: Mum captures a day in the life of her son with Type 1 diabetes: 'This hurts my heart'

Read more: What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the body’s immune system destroys cells which produce the hormone insulin. It differs from Type 2, where the body does produce some insulin but not enough. 

In order to keep glucose levels stable, people with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin, either via an insulin pump or by injecting before every meal.

There are approximately 400,000 people with Type 1 diabetes in in the UK, one of the highest rates of the condition in the world, though the reason for this is not known.

Possible complications that can occur due to uncontrolled sugar levels include kidney disease, nerve damage and issues with vision. So it's important for people with the disease to attend routine appointments to check their eyes, feet and kidney function. 

A type 1 diabetic patient displays her blood sugar level testing device at the J.W.C.H. safety-net clinic in the center of skid row in downtown Los Angeles, July 30, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
A Type 1 diabetic patient displays her blood sugar level testing device. (Reuters)

Worryingly, several respondents in the survey said their GP did not take issues such as foot pain seriously. 

Others complained about having to explain their condition to doctors multiple times before they were able to make appointments, with some even having to explain the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 

Read more: Kate Moss’s daughter Lila praised for wearing an insulin pump on the runway

Despite appointments being rescheduled to online or over the phone, people with diabetes still feel they have been left behind because of the disruption to services caused by the pandemic. 

This is especially true for people from lower income households, people from ethnic minority backgrounds and those who suffer from other health conditions on top of diabetes. 

These groups are less likely to have access to new technology to help them manage their disease.

The survey results also showed a desire for greater psychological support for people with the condition. 

Diabetics are more likely to suffer from mental health-related issues such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. 

Many patients were extremely worried during the pandemic. (Getty Images)
Many patients were extremely worried during the pandemic. (Getty Images)

Some 53% of the adults interviewed said they experienced increased worry during the pandemic, mainly due to reports about people with diabetes making up a significant number of deaths from coronavirus. 

The report outlines a number of recommendations for the NHS in England and Wales in order to better deal with patients with diabetes. 

These include giving more diabetics wearable technology such as insulin pumps and flash glucose monitors, providing more face-to-face appointments, and for mental health support to be included in all diabetes clinics. 

UK chief executive of JDRF Karen Addington said: “Our recommendations point the way for an NHS that can build back an integrated Type 1 diabetes service that optimises quality of care and support, as well as positive outcomes for those living with the condition. 

"People affected by Type 1 diabetes hold expertise. Such expertise is valuable for clinical adaptation as we move beyond COVID.”

She added: “Despite the major disruption to Type 1 diabetes healthcare, 58% of adults living with Type 1 diabetes felt the NHS had done its best to support them during the pandemic. 

"This reflects an admiration of NHS staff and their efforts throughout the pandemic that we at JDRF share.

“JDRF is committed to working with its partners in the NHS, government and other stakeholders on the adoption of the recommendations in our report, to help guide the rebuilding of NHS services and support.”

Watch: Certain diabetes drugs may reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease

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