NHS Diabetes Advice Helpline for patients with insulin-treated diabetes

This Diabetes Awareness Week, we take a look at how an exciting collaboration is helping people living with insulin-treated diabetes to manage their condition during the pandemic.

Advice LineDiabetics face a significantly higher risk of dying with COVID-19, with a third of deaths in England associated with the condition, according to NHS research.

During the pandemic, King’s Health Partners have supported the local healthcare system to look at what can be done to help diabetics who cannot access their usual care teams or go to physical appointments. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, NHS England, Diabetes UK, Novo Nordisk and Insult, with support from Health Innovation Network and one of DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator alumni, medCrowd, have come together to develop a dedicated Diabetes Advice Helpline.

The new Diabetes Advice Helpline, launched by NHS England and NHS Improvement, offers clinical advice for people, putting them in touch with trained clinical advisors with expertise in diabetes. All the advisors are trained health professionals who are volunteering their time during the pandemic – some are retired and have returned to the NHS to support patients.

The service is available via the Diabetes UK’s support line on 0345 123 2399, Monday to Friday from 9am – 6pm, for adults living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who use insulin to manage their condition.

For patients who, whether as a direct or indirect result of the coronavirus, have had their routine care disrupted, the helpline provides much needed clinical advice on topics such as: hyperglycaemia, hypoglycaemia, sick day rules and missed injections, which can all lead to serious complications if not managed appropriately.

The new helpline is not intended to replace the routine care that patients receive – but if for any reason patients cannot get hold of their usual care team, then the helpline is there to provide advice. The helpline is not able to offer advice for pregnant or paediatric patients. These patients, and their parents or guardians, as appropriate, are advised to contact their own doctor or care team.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust continues to be a key partner in the project by providing clinical oversight and support.

Mark Brodigan, Programme Lead for NHS England, said:

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and our London regional team were instrumental in the inception and development of the programme. They continue to provide clinical, operational advice and support to the service.  Without their help and support, we would not have been able to establish this service in such a short period of time. This is a good example of partnership working across the NHS, third and private sectors to establish a service that supports diabetic patients at this time of need.

Kate Lillywhite, Programme Director of King’s Health Partners Diabetes, Obesity and Endocrinology, said:

We’re delighted that NHS Diabetes Advice Helpline has launched and our Institute has played a key role in enabling it.
No doubt, this service will provide accessible and high-quality advice for people living with diabetes across the UK during the pandemic. None of it would not have been made possible without cross-organisation collaboration and the fantastic support from Health Innovation Network and medCrowd.
The experience of setting this service up opens up the possibility of new ways of working, beneficial to both patients and staff alike.

Laura Semple, Health and Innovation Network Programme Director in Diabetes and Stroke Prevention, said:

This helpline is a fantastic example of how rapid collaboration between NHS organisations and medCrowd has made it possible to provide much-needed support to patients during this challenging time. We will all be interested to learn from the experience of this advice line as we work with partners to shape the future of diabetes care.

Sara Nelson, Programme Director DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, said:

We are very proud that so many of our Accelerator programme companies are at the forefront of the COVID-19 response and are supporting the NHS and patients every day.
In this project, medCrowd is adapting its offer to meet people’s needs during the pandemic, giving hundreds of people access to the vital care and support they need.

Dr Felix Jackson, Founder and Medical Director of medDigital and medCrowd, said:

It is amazing to see this innovative service set up so quickly by the dedicated and talented team working together across the NHS, Health Innovation Network, medDigital and other key organisations. We were able to configure and roll out NHS Diabetes Advice in just a few weeks so people living with diabetes can get the help and advice they need during this uncertain time.

King’s Health Partners Diabetes, Obesity and Endocrinology is improving health and wellbeing for people living with diabetes and obesity across London and south east England.

Health Innovation Network, the Academic Health Science Network for south London, works with partners from across the NHS, academia, local authorities, third sector and industry to support the spread and adoption of innovation.