To mark the 100th anniversary of the use of insulin to treat diabetes (11 January 2022), the Northern Ireland Diabetes Network has launched a new regional pump service to improve the lives of people living with the condition.
There are currently around 104,000 people living with diabetes across the region.
Over 1, 500 adults and children with type 1 diabetes use insulin pumps – small electronic devices, attached to the body, to give the body the regular insulin it needs throughout the day and night.
Currently pumps are accessed and provided differently across Northern Ireland. As a result patients’ experience of accessing pumps and support differs regionally in, for example, pump ordering, receiving pump replacements and training.
The new service, funded by the Department of Health, aims to ensure equitable access to pumps and support, no matter where patients live in Northern Ireland.
Co-produced alongside people living with diabetes, clinicians, all Health and Social Care Trusts and Diabetes UK, the new service will be developed over the next three years.
Commenting on the launch of the service, Health Minister Robin Swann acknowledged that the development of insulin in the treatment of diabetes 100 years ago was one of the 20th century’s transformational medical discoveries.
“I am delighted 100 years on to announce significant investment of £2m for a Regional Pumps Service for Northern Ireland.
“Having been developed in partnership with people living with diabetes, this pathway will create efficiencies in process and time, better patient experience and clinical care, improved quality of care and outcomes.
“While the service is in its infancy, the pathway, ethos and approach has been agreed and I am pleased to welcome this significant development and share some good news in the most challenging of times for a patient group disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“This investment by my Department and delivered through the NI Diabetes Network, which is sponsored by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Michael McBride, highlights our commitment to people living with diabetes,” he said.
Dr Hamish Courtney, Clinical Director for the Diabetes Network, explained that a clear pathway would enable significant clinical outcomes to be achieved.
“The discovery of insulin meant that diabetes, which was previously an untreatable disease, became “treatable”, enabling people to live with the condition which, prior to 1922, was impossible.
“Now, 100 years on, we continue to strive to improve health outcomes for people living with diabetes, supporting them to not just live with the condition but to do so in a manner that improves their quality of life.
“This new pathway will ensure equality of access across Northern Ireland, help support people to get the best outcomes from their pump therapy and ensure that diabetes teams across the region can share good practice and optimise care for everyone.
“In a similar way to the Regional Foot Pathway, this initiative represents the work of the Network and all its partners in setting the regional strategic direction for diabetes treatment and care and delivering against it,” he said.
Tina McCrossan, National Director, Diabetes UK NI, also welcomed the pathway.
Tina said, “Our recent Diabetes is Serious report highlighted the need for agreed pathways to improve diabetes care. This new pathway represents another significant development as we continue to champion service transformation, working within the Network as a key partner.”
“In helping to design the new pathway, people living with diabetes reflected the need for ‘quality of life’ to be a key principle. Acceptance of this recommendation makes Northern Ireland the first region among the four nations to use this as criteria and underlines the Network’s commitment to transform diabetes treatment and care.”