This week is Diabetes Week and national charity Diabetes UK have offered MPs the opportunity to experience, as far as possible, what it’s like living with Type 1 diabetes to help us understand the challenges.
I’m one of three MPs who’ve taken up the challenge. There are over 17,000 people with diabetes in High Peak, so it has a huge impact, both on individuals and on our local NHS.
The week-long challenge involves pricking my finger at least 4 times a day to test my blood sugars and injecting (or at least stabbing myself with an injection pen) at least 5 times a day.
I’m also keeping a food diary and attempting to count the grams of carbohydrate that I eat. For every 10g of carbohydrate, someone with Type 1 diabetes needs to inject 2ml of insulin.
The most painful part is the finger pricking and after just one day my fingers are feeling sore. I can’t imagine what they’d be like after having to do this several times a day, every day.
Even without worrying about trying to keep my blood sugars within a normal range by balancing eating carbohydrates with injecting insulin, as someone with Type 1 diabetes has to do, the constant routine of finger prick, eat, inject every two or three hours is very wearing.
But the complications of not managing diabetes are very serious. From eye damage to an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke, to poor circulation causing amputations.
It’s no wonder that Diabetes UK are campaigning for improved mental health support for diabetes sufferers. 7 in 10 people say they feel overwhelmed by diabetes, but 75% who needed support from a specialist told Diabetes UK they couldn’t access it.
It’s estimated that diabetes costs the NHS around £10bn a year – almost 10% of the budget – but most of that is on complications that arise when a patient isn’t able to manage their diabetes.
Diabetes nurses are very important and I want to make sure that their valuable roles are supported, even through the difficult cuts facing our local NHS.
Having experienced the difficulty of ongoing finger-pricking, I want to see more people able to access the new Flash Glucose Monitoring devices. The government has supplied funding for 20% of patients to receive them, but only 8% of people in High Peak have them so I’ve written to our health commissioners to ask why.
I can tell already that living with just a small part of diabetes for a week will be tough. I can’t know the full story but I can offer support to the thousands of constituents who are affected, and thank Diabetes UK for their ongoing research and campaigning.