Gap in diabetes care blamed for preventable amputations

System ‘in tatters’ because of unfilled posts and political inaction, says diabetes group

Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White: said at the weekend that the much-delayed appointment of specialist diabetes nurses would be completed by June

Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White: said at the weekend that the much-delayed appointment of specialist diabetes nurses would be completed by June

 

Hundreds of preventable amputations are being carried out every year because of a lack of integrated care for diabetes sufferers, according to groups working with patients.

The national model of care is “in tatters” with half of the necessary posts unfilled, while children with type 1 diabetes are being denied access to insulin pumps because of a lack of nursing and dietetic staff.

Diabetes patients are supposed to receive medical checks every four months but in many parts of the country they wait up to three years for an appointment because hospitals are “swamped”, says endocrinologist Dr Kevin Moore, chairman of Diabetes Action.

The group blames political inaction and inertia for the lack of progress in implementing a new community healthcare approach to managing the disease which could radically improve treatment for 150,000 sufferers in the Republic.

The Government’s likely abandonment of a promise to extend free GP cards to people with diabetes and other long-term illnesses has come as a further setback.

The group, an initiative involving Diabetes Ireland, diabetes nurses and the Irish Endocrine Society, wants the Minister for Health to give priority to plans to extend diabetes care from hospitals into GP practices.

Dr Moore said years of political inaction have resulted in “shocking” levels of diabetes-related lower limb amputations: 781 in 2010-11. This number could be cut by 40 per cent through the implementation of a proper model of care.

He said the Government had brilliant plans but had yet to deliver on them. “Diabetes care is in crisis. The majority of patients are not getting the basic care they need. Incredibly, funding is actually available for 17 integrated care posts, for another nine posts in podiatry and 4.2 posts in paediatric diabetes services, yet these posts have remained unfilled,” he said.

Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White said at the weekend that the much-delayed appointment of specialist diabetes nurses would be completed by June.

There are about 190,000 people with diabetes in Ireland, with between 50,000-80,000 cases undiagnosed.

This number is expected to rise steeply in the years to come.