Diabetes Innovation Summit

On Thursday 27th October, the APPG for Diabetes hosted a Diabetes Innovation Summit at the Manchester Town Hall. This is part of a strategy to take the conversation on Diabetes to other parts of the country and start influencing policy inside and outside Parliament. The summit covered the topics of policy, lifestyle and technology.

If you haven’t been able to attend, check out some of the highlights of the day:


Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP started the day by sharing his personal story, diagnosed and living with type 2 diabetes. He urged everyone to recognize the human and financial impact of diabetes, but expressed that he’s hopeful the message is getting across to members of parliament. He thanked Mike Kane MP for his presence at the event.

Diabetes Policy Making

Dr. Partha Kar, associate national director for diabetes at NHS England, started his talk by urging the importance of differentiating between type 1 and type 2 diabetes throughout the event, as well as not treating every person with diabetes exactly the same way.

He expressed his opinion that the NHS is great at treating people when they’re sick, but not as good at keeping them healthy, which is not a sustainable system. He said the NHS has the money to improve diabetes care, but lacks efficiency on how to use it, which is why the NHS has plans for 2017 to look at good practice and cascade them across the country. Sharing innovation to improve diabetes care. The key issues the NHS will be focusing on 2017:

  • Patient education: offering consistent information and making sure people attend the courses.
  • Specialist access: making sure people can speak with a specialist in every GP, either in person or through technology. Also pointed out the importance of having a standardized trainings and certification for specialists.
  • Foot care.
  • Achievement of NICE treatment targets.

Simon O’Neill, Director of health intelligence and professional liaison for Diabetes UK spoke on the ways they’re tackling the diabetes crisis and transforming diabetes care. He covered three different campaigns as examples of how charities can support the public sector: Putting Feet First, Taking Control and Make the Grade.

On the topic of foot care, he mentioned how finally amputations are making headline news thanks to the huge amount of work to raise awareness on the highly preventable complication. However, he raised the question: does public awareness affect policy? Yes, it does. Putting Feet First is a campaign across the UK to make sure people with diabetes know how to look after their feet and that local health services provide an integrated footcare pathway, supported by healthcare professionals.

On the topic of self-management education, he mentioned how the Taking Control campaign focused on increasing the provision and uptake of diabetes education by giving healthcare professionals and local decision makers more information about patient education options. He explained how often it’s not necessary to re-invent the wheel, just work together to improve systems that are already there.

Finally, regarding the Make the Grade campaign, Simon mentioned how we’re often told diabetes in schools is not an issue. He shared the story of how 30 different charities came together, including Diabetes UK and JDRF, to form the Health Conditions in School Alliance, managing to change the Children and Families Act in 2014 to include a duty on schools in England to support children with health conditions. He expressed how this is proof of the power campaigning can have to influence policy. Furthermore, he shared how Diabetes UK is working to support parents and schools in the implementation of the new duty by creating a helpline and the Good Diabetes Care in School Award as ways of providing information and incentive for change.

Health and Lifestyle Plenary

Dr. David Unwin from the Royal College of General Practitioners was the first to speak on the plenary, sharing his GP’s success story. He explained how he has spent the last four years looking into the glycaemic index and how this information is still unclear to most. No one knows what 20g of sugar really looks like and where it comes from. In studies with focus on diet and low glycaemic index control he has been able to achieve diabetes remission in 12 cases so far, besides improvements in cholesterol, liver function, blood pressure and energy levels. He stressed the importance of involving patients on the decision making surrounding their diets in order to achieve success.

Anna Taylor, executive director for The Food Foundation, spoke next on the research her organization published this year. She raised the question: how easy it is for a family in Britain to choose a healthy diet? She explained how advertising for healthy and unhealthy food are incomparable, which creates an unfavourable environment, often targeted at children and lacking regulation. She also mentioned the importance of price and promotions in tipping the plain field towards the wrong direction and urged for leadership from the Government to change this scenario.

Rend Platings, founder of Sugarwise, spoke on the importance of modifying people’s behaviours by highlighting different options and mentioned the difficulty of understanding sugar and differentiating free sugar from added sugar. She explained how the public sector in the USA has determined that every food needs to have an ‘added sugar information line’ added to their labels, and hopes the UK will apply the same type of regulation.

Dr. Sheila McCorkindale, clinical lead for diabetes and kidney at the NHS Salford CCG, focused on type 2 diabetes prevention and shared her experience with improving diabetes care and patient engagement in Salford. She stressed the importance of working together with patients and not trying to force a change when people are not ready for it. She explained the need to make consistent information available and clear operational pathways. She mentioned diabetes still isn’t seen as serious and scary enough, raising the question: how do you get people to make healthy choices?

Professor Heather Daly from the Leicester Diabetes Centre also focused on the challenge of changing long term behaviour. She explained the solution she has found was through engagement: not giving people a direction where to go, but give them the knowledge and support to make the decision for themselves. She also mentioned the importance of listening to patients and working collaboratively locally.

A Q&A following the plenary session raised a few issues, such as: the importance of creating a mass consistent education programme on sugar and healthy foods; the sugar drinks industry level ‘SDIL’,the discussions surrounding reformulation of products to have less sugar in it; and the challenge of convincing GPs of the importance of diet and health style in fighting diabetes.

Diabetes Technology

The second plenary of the day started with Ben Moody, senior public affairs manager for JDRF, explaining the importance of technology for a person living with diabetes. Self-management it’s a large part of diabetes care and the right education and tools are needed to achieve control of your diabetes.

He explained the difference between different forms of insulin delivery technology and glucose testing, mentioning the future is an integrated system: the artificial pancreas. Despite still having a long way to go, Ben was confident this technology should be available in the UK in the next few years and urged the NHS to prepare funding pathways and healthcare professionals education in order to make sure the technology reaches the public that needs it.

Furthermore, Ben shared how JDRF is funding other research with potential to improve the quality of life of diabetes patients, such as immunotherapies, a faster delivery of insulin and a way to add more insulin to a smaller space.

Tom Highan, Digital Art Curator and type 1 Patient, spoke next on the accessibility of diabetes technology. He stressed the importance of continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps, as controlling targets now prevents complications and saves money later on. Furthermore, he mentioned the need to redesign diabetes technology to make it more user friendly and increase take-up, urging the NHS to create faster pathways for innovation.

James Thurlow, founder of Open Adventure and T1 Patient, shared his personal story on the difficulty of adapting to a new life with diabetes. As a challenge to himself, he ran 190 miles coast to coast in 4 days to raise awareness to diabetes.

He mentioned how Freestyle Libra was an essential technology to help him in his running, and how unregulated open source technology is being created to push Freestyle Libra even further and connect it to mobile phones, for example. He believes that, despite evidence based decision making being needed, it’s frustrating how there isn’t easier and faster pathways for funding technology; a detriment to those that can’t fund it themselves.

Chris Barker, CEO of Spirit Healthcare, spoke about working with the NHS to create solutions for improving impatient care. He mentioned the importance of using technology to support education, making it dynamic and empowering. He urged for systems that allow people to feed their results and get live responses on what’s happening in their body almost immediately.

Andrew Greaves, sales director at BHR Pharmaceuticals, agreed with his fellow speakers and stated there is a need to transform the way we manage diabetes. He mentioned how there’s a large number of people who still can’t access glucose monitoring technology. He argues that the NHS would save more by investing on self-management technologies, thus lessening the burden on primary and secondary care, as well as avoiding complications.

It takes a village

The final speaker of the day was Joao da Rocha Fernandes, health economist for the International Diabetes Federation. He spoke of the new model the federation has developed in its mission to promote cure and prevention of diabetes: city environments that help people with diabetes. He argued that unhealthy environments can be associated with the diabetes crisis of today. He explained that long-term lifestyle changes are hard because behaviour depends on the environment, which is a complication when applying prevention strategies.

He urged the need for cities to change their food and health environments, not just their policy environment. Also spoke on the importance of working together with a coherent strategy. The federations’ project aims to build partnerships with local governments to collect data through assessment tools and inform pathways for change.

Keith Vaz MP finalized the day by revealing the plans for the next Diabetes Innovation Summit to be in Bristol in 2017, continuing to bring the discussion on diabetes to different parts of the country. He invited attendees to follow the work of the APPG for Diabetes and reach out to us with ideas and examples of good practices.



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