Ireland 9th in Europe for diabetes care


IRELAND HAS been ranked ninth in Europe for the standard of its diabetes care.

The first Euro Consumer Diabetes Index describes Ireland's performance as competent but points to a number of areas where care could be improved.

Long waiting times for treatment, the need for more qualified medical staff and the creation of an open diabetes registry are identified as the main problems or areas for improvement.

Denmark was rated as the country with the best standard of diabetes care, followed closely by the UK, and then France and the Netherlands.

Ireland's ranking in the diabetes index is considerably better than in general consumer health and heart indices published earlier this year, in which the country was ranked 16th out of 29 countries.

The Brussels-based Health Consumer Powerhouse, which produces the indices, say the results of the diabetes rankings represents a "big step forward" for Ireland.

However, the report says patients from countries such as Ireland constantly complain about waiting times (sometimes up to a year) for check-ups, surgeries, or other appointments. One is quoted as saying: "You can get many devices to control your diabetes but to learn how to use them can take up to six months."

The diabetes index compares care systems around Europe from a consumer point of view. In five categories, covering 26 performance indicators, Ireland scored 733 points from a potential 1,000.

"Diabetes teams are overrun with patients in Ireland and we see the need for more qualified staff,both doctors and nurses. The long waiting times are not acceptable and lead to risks for complications," says Dr Beatriz Cebolla Garrofé, index project manager.

The creation of an open and transparent diabetes registry would improve care outcomes for patients, according to Johan Hjertqvist, president of Health Consumer Powerhouse.

The report describes the overall state of diabetes care in Europe as shocking. In many countries, there is a high risk that the disease will not be detected in time because of a lack of systematic prevention.

In half the countries surveyed, no regular check-ups of blood sugar are carried out ( Irish authorities were unable to say whether this was the case but patients said they were regularly checked).

"There is a huge diabetic population who are neither diagnosed nor properly treated," the report states. "Because of this, renal complications seem to be a significant problem in half of the measured countries. Due to neglect the damage grows much worse . . ."

The report says the key to success in diabetes management is easy access to competent primary healthcare combined with quality patient information. It also says much more should be done to keep death rates down by encouraging simple lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking.

"Good diabetes care is mainly not a matter of GDP but of culture and organisation. To motivate and involve the patients is a daily struggle. That is why user-friendly public benchmarks are of such importance."

Diabetes mellitus is the most common metabolic disease worldwide; the number of cases is forecast to rise from 135 million in 1995 to 300 million diagnosed and undiagnosed cases by 2025.

Sedentary lifestyles, changed eating habits, environmental factors and a genetic predisposition are all considered potential risk factors, as is obesity when young.