Five ways King’s Health Partners is improving outcomes for people with diabetes

This World Diabetes Day, King’s Health Partners Diabetes, Endocrinology and Obesity outlines their Institute’s work across five key areas of focus.

Diabetes infogr 50818780 (1)Diabetes and obesity are global challenges and the number of people living with these conditions is increasing. In the UK one in 15 people have diabetes and by 2035 it is estimated that more than five million people in England will be diagnosed with the condition.

Diabetes and obesity are linked to health inequalities, with the conditions disproportionately impacting people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. We have also learnt that diabetes and obesity are risk factors for poor outcomes for COVID-19.

Our Institute is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of people living with diabetes and obesity across south east London and beyond, and since our establishment in 2015 we have achieved a great deal.

Enabling ‘One Team’ working to better support patients with diabetes

There is a considerable wealth of knowledge and expertise in the fields of diabetes, endocrinology and obesity across King’s Health Partners. Collectively, we are the largest provider of diabetes and endocrinology services in the UK, serving a culturally diverse population of over two million people in London and the South East. Our partner organisations have a long history of pioneering discoveries and setting national and international standards in this field. These include the first insulin treatment in the UK, the first modern joint pregnancy clinics, and the development of liaison psychiatry in diabetes.

Our Institute brings together a broad range of clinicians and academics for the benefit of patients, and we focus on working together to improve quality of care, increase innovation and the translation of research, and reduce variation across the health care system.

The Institute is focused on working even more closely together across current organisational boundaries to deliver efficient clinical pathways and better outcomes for patients.

Ensuring a ‘whole person’ approach

Around 40% of people with diabetes struggle with their psychological wellbeing, often because of the demands of diabetes. People with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression than people without the condition and are more likely to be depressed for longer and more frequently.

This is hardly surprising when you consider the various things people need to do to manage their diabetes. These include constantly having to check and monitor their blood sugar levels, pay very close attention to what they eat and inject insulin. It can be exhausting, and in some cases lead to diabetes distress, depression and anxiety. The same is true for obesity.

We are committed to ensuring a coordinated 'whole person' approach across physical and mental health to improve the care our patients receive. Providing integrated mental health support to people with diabetes can improve health outcomes by helping them self-manage their condition, reducing hospital admissions and giving people a better quality of life.

To support the mental and physical health of those with diabetes we have, for example, developed a programme for type 1 diabetes patients with eating disorders that provides combined psychological and physical healthcare. Through this service, our patients receive fully integrated diabetes and mental health support, across every stage of their treatment.

Although progress has been made in this area, more work is needed to ensure patients are offered the most effective holistic care and treatment, tailored to their individual needs.

Delivering world-leading education

It is estimated that one in six hospital beds are occupied by people with diabetes. By 2030, this is predicted to rise to one in four. This means that not only diabetes specialists, but all healthcare professionals need to understand the disease.

We deliver world-leading research and education programmes to ensure the workforce, both within our partner organisations and further afield, are able to provide the best possible care for those with diabetes:

The King’s Health Partners Learning Hub offers free courses to help our staff work with patients to prevent and manage diabetes, including:

  • Addressing Obesity in a Consultation shows how to broach the topic sensitively and effectively with patients and devise a patient-centred action plan to prevent diabetes developing.
  • Fight the Fads is an excellent source of information that can be used to inform personal eating choices or to support patients and service users who are interested in improving their diet.
  • Metabolism covers the four key pathways, explaining each one’s importance and going step-by-step through the reactions involved and how they are regulated. Each lecture lasts approximately 45 minutes and is supported by self-check questions and links to additional online resources.
  • ThinkGlucose toolkit developed by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust helps ward staff manage patients’ blood glucose and act appropriately. The module includes a short video introducing the toolkit and demonstrating how to use the blood glucose monitoring chart and guidelines, followed by a guided tutorial to practice using the toolkit.

Educating our patients on how best to manage their condition is also incredibly important and we are committed to providing the very best education across a wide variety of areas. This includes training on how to use insulin pumps and manage diabetes when pregnant. We also provide education for young people to help them navigate the transition into adulthood where they are required to take more ownership for managing their diabetes. 

We ensure that education is tailored to the needs of individual communities and evidence shows that this approach has a significant impact on outcomes. This is demonstrated through HEAL-D, an education programme for people with type 2 diabetes who come from African and Caribbean communities; and the Youth Empowerment Skills (YES) programme for teenagers with type 1 diabetes.

Becoming a major UK centre for diabetes and obesity research

Research is central to our work. We are committed to speeding up the time it takes for research to be translated into clinical practice, by building links between basic discovery science and clinical academics. Our research programme focuses on all aspects of diabetes, endocrinology and obesity, from prevention through to treatments and cure.

We are extremely proud of our academic record; 26% of our research papers submitted to the Research Excellence Framework were rated ‘world-leading’, and 74% ‘internationally excellent.’

Our aspiration is to become a major UK centre for diabetes and obesity research, building on our rich history and world-leading clinical academic strengths. 

Acting as a system leader

People with diabetes and obesity often require support from a variety of healthcare providers. These include GPs, diabetes clinics in hospitals, and, if they encounter complications, specialist clinics.

We want to ensure that every patient receives the best possible care, regardless of where they receive treatment. Our Institute plays a crucial role in coordinating this activity and we look to involve as many people as possible in our work, however, there is a great deal more that needs to be done. We are currently working on a programme to re-design the south east London obesity pathway, which is currently somewhat fragmented, so that patients receive appropriate treatment much sooner and their outcomes and experience are improved.

Furthermore, there is a great deal of excellent progress being made in developing and delivering innovative treatments and care, with south east London leading the way. King’s Health Partners Diabetes, Endocrinology and Obesity plays an essential role in developing new treatments and pathways and ensuring they can be scaled-up locally and nationally, so that more patients can benefit from them. We achieve this through our focus on partnership working – we know we can achieve more together – and this is central to our work and strategy.

Get in touch

I hope you have enjoyed learning more about the Institute and our work and purpose. If you are interested in working with us, we would love to hear from you. You can get in touch by emailing Hayley Ormandy, Programme Director for King's Health Partners Diabetes, Endocrinology and Obesity: hayley.ormandy@kcl.ac.uk

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