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Diabetes ‘data deficit’ frustrating efforts to tackle disease

Conference hears call for payments to GPs to handle patients with illness in community

An estimated 225,000 Irish people are living with diabetes. Photograph: Getty Images

A lack of precise information about the number of people with diabetes is hampering efforts to combat the disease, a conference has been told.

Ireland has yet to to “get a handle” on the prevalence of diabetes, according to Dr Sean Dinneen, an endocrinologist at NUI Galway and the HSE national clinical lead in diabetes.

An estimated 225,000 Irish people are living with diabetes but Dr Dinneen says the data available is fragmented. “We don’t know how bad the problem is, so our planning is not as good as it should be.”

He says much of the specialist care for patients urgently needs to be moved out of hospitals and into the community but GPs have to be given financial incentives to take on this work.

Care in community

Chronic care of patients is likely to feature prominently in forthcoming discussions between the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation on a new GP contract.

Dr Dinneen says people with stable type 2 diabetes should be managed entirely by GPs in the community, while most other patients would be treated in a hospital setting.

Greater awareness is needed of the importance of physical activity and good diet in preventing and managing diabetes, he says.

“Our society has steadily become more unhealthy, thanks to greater access to high-fat foods and reducing amounts of exercise. We need to do more to identify people at risk and intervene before they cross the threshold and get diabetes.”

Ireland ranks only 20th out of 30 countries in Europe for its management of the disease, he points out.

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