Findings from a survey of diabetes nurses across Europe show how they have seen significant increases in both physical and psychological problems in people living with diabetes during COVID-19 and major disruption to clinical diabetes services. The results also show the urgent need to adapt care systems to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the diabetes population as the pandemic situation continues.
The research was conducted by a pan-European survey consortium led by Dr Rita Forde and Professor Angus Forbes from the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care at King’s College London. It was funded by the Foundation of European Nurses in Diabetes (FEND) and published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.
It is widely reported that people living with diabetes are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill and hospitalised with COVID-19, which has generated a lot of concern for the people affected. People with pre-existing diabetes who contract the virus have worse outcomes in terms of morbidity and mortality compared to those without diabetes. In addition, there were reports of people without a diagnosis of diabetes experiencing significant metabolic disturbances leading to hyperglycaemia and an increase in new onset diabetes.
Conducted between June-July 2020, the FEND survey consortium gathered and analysed perspectives of diabetes nurses from across 27 European countries, to understand more about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with diabetes and on diabetes services. The findings provide important evidence to show that care systems need to be adapted quickly to minimise the continued impact of the pandemic on the diabetes population.
The survey was developed in English by a consortium of diabetes nurses from 22 different countries using a rapid Delphi technique. It was then translated into 16 additional languages and disseminated online via diabetes nursing networks in 27 European countries.
Survey responses from 1829 diabetes nurses across Europe show that people living with diabetes were both physically and psychologically impacted by the pandemic. This included increased risks of acute hyperglycaemia, hospital admissions and foot complications. There were also large increases in the psychological health risks such as depression, anxiety, and diabetes distress.
The survey also highlighted widespread disruption to diabetes services and a rapid shift towards virtual care delivery. Nurses had to swiftly transform how care is delivered and how they work with people living with diabetes.
Our research has highlighted the challenges experienced by diabetes nurses and diabetes services in 27 countries and has also shown how quickly nurses were able to shift the way they deliver care and support to their patient populations. As the pandemic continues, care systems and processes will need to be modified to alleviate the impact on people with living with diabetes and the people who care for them.– Dr Rita Forde, Research Fellow and lead author