Last Friday I attended a couple of sessions of the Health Professional Symposium coordinated by Diabetes Australia – Vic and Baker IDI. The packed program covered a variety of topics including cognitive function in children with type 1 diabetes,musculoskeletal complications of diabetes and a panel discussion about whether lifestyle interventions are an effective approach in diabetes management.

The two sessions of particular interest to me were around diabetes in the hospital setting. The first, from DNE Sue Wyatt (Alfred Hospital), focussed on improving diabetes management in hospitals (including discussions about outcomes, policies and procedures) and the second was from dietitian Anita Wilton who discussed food services in hospitals.

To me, both sessions highlighted the problems faced by many people with diabetes when we are admitted to hospital – whether it be for a planned stay or emergency visit. The outlined policies and procedures do not take into account that people with diabetes have different levels of understanding, knowledge and self-management, and the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is, I believe, actually detrimental to diabetes care (indeed, diabetes self-care), emphasising the artificial environment experienced when in a hospital setting.

There needs to be a balance between what we as people living with diabetes need when we are in hospital and how we fit into the ‘rules’ and regulations enforced in hospital.

And one issue of particular concern is what happens to our insulin (and other medications), delivery devices and other management tools (BGL meters etc.). At the Alfred Hospital, insulin and delivery devices are taken from the patient. Obviously, this isn’t the case with pumps, but pens and syringes are removed from the person with diabetes and locked away. This is the policy and according to Sue Wyatt, in only one case has this been challenged to the point where the patient was allowed to hold on to their medications.

Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t sit well with me at all.

I raised my hand during question time to ask about how we manage the different needs of the person living with diabetes and hospital policies and procedures that, in this case, go against everything I believe in when it comes to patient empowerment. The answer I received was all about protecting the nurses in the hospital setting and whilst I completely understand and respect the need for that, where was the discussion about protecting the rights of the patient? At no point, when I am a patient, do I give up those rights. I understand that there will be times that people with diabetes are unable to administer their own insulin, but for many, that is not the case. As they are recovering from surgery or sitting in A&E dealing with whatever they are dealing with, managing their own medication is not only possible, but frequently the best option.

In my case, I have never been an inpatient and unable to administer insulin (after calculating doses and entering the correct information into my pump). Being able to address high BGLs and correct accordingly, bolus at the exact time I am eating or treat a low immediately have actually meant smoother management whilst in the hospital setting rather than relying on an already-far-too-busy nurse.

Obviously, it is essential that hospitals have policies and procedures in place, but at the same time, the primary concern should be what is best for the patient. If the talk around patient-centred care is to be taken seriously (and not just perfunctory jargon to make people believe they are talking the politically correct language and saying the right things) then we need to make sure that the patient and their best interests are actually being contemplated.

At no time are my best interests being considered if I am asked to hand over all the things that I need to manage my condition, whatever the setting.

I am employed by Diabetes Australia – Vic. I was not involved in the planning or presenting of any sessions at this event.

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