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17 February 2021

New study highlights urgent need to alleviate impact of pandemic on people with diabetes

Diabetes nurses across Europe have reported increases in physical and psychological problems for people living with diabetes during COVID-19.

Medical equipment related to diabetes management

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

Now there is evidence to show the kinds of impact COVID-19 is having on people with diabetes, and the nurses and services they rely on, ways can be found to ease some of the problems being faced. The clinical priority arising from this research is to bring together from across Europe learning about how best to optimise care delivery during the pandemic which can be shared among the diabetes healthcare community, healthcare leadership and policy makers.

As well as being published in the Journal of Diabetic Medicine, data from the survey has been presented at the annual FEND conference, at an EU Diabetes Forum symposium and an International Diabetes Federation forum with members of the European Parliament in attendance.

Read the full paper here: The impact of the COVID‐19 pandemic on people with diabetes and diabetes services: A pan‐European survey of diabetes specialist nurses undertaken by the Foundation of European Nurses in Diabetes survey consortium - Forde - - Diabetic Medicine - Wiley Online Library

In this story

Rita Forde

Lecturer in Long-term Conditions and Reproductive Health

Angus Forbes

Professor of Diabetes Nursing

Maya Allen-Taylor

Senior Teaching Fellow

Freya Brown

Research Associate

Aycan Celik

PhD Student

Jackie Sturt

Head of Division, Care in Long Term Conditions and Professor of Behavioural Medicine in Nursing