Seeing a psychologist could be the secret to treating diabetes says study

New research at the University of Warwick has found that psychological therapies can help those struggling to cope with type-2 diabetes and slash waiting times between treatments.

Specifically the research highlights the roles of General Practitioners (GPs) and nurses, finding that therapies such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy can help patients control their blood glucose levels.

Typically, for most patients, access to these services is severely limited due to a shortage of psychological therapists in the NHS.

The study included a review of 35 trials exploring the clinical and psychological effects of offering patients psychological interventions, carried out by researchers at the University’s Medical School.

In half of the trials, therapies were carried out by psychological therapists, and in the other half, interventions were delivered by GPs and nurses who had been given the specialist training.

The review revealed that blood glucose levels were reduced to the same degree irrespective of whether it was a psychological therapist or a general health care professional who delivered the therapy.

The team concluded that if GPs and nurses were trained to deliver these therapies, access to the service would be greatly improved for all patients.

Dr Jackie Sturt, Associate Professor in Behavioural and Social Sciences at Warwick Medical School, said psychological therapies had been shown to reduce HbA1c, which is a measure which shows the average amount of sugar in the blood over the last two to three months.

Therapies can reduce the chemical by between half and one percent which can equal a 14-37 per cent reduction in serious diabetes-related complications such as heart disease, blindness and kidney disease.

She said: “The behavioural changes facilitated by close attention to diet, medication regimens including insulin injections, exercise, weight management, self-monitoring of daily blood glucose levels and foot care are burdensome and have social and emotional consequences.”

The scheme has already been trialed in Coventry, where GP Kumkum Misra underwent the pilot training to offer therapies at her surgery in Queen Mary’s Road, Coventry.

She said: “Patients with chronic disease need more time from the clinicians so that a better care plan can be devised for their management. Every patient is an individual with their own individual problems and with this study it has given me the confidence to make my consultations more patient centred.”

According to Diabetes UK, “two-thirds of adults with diabetes in England and Wales are not receiving their vital annual health checks.”

Furthermore, they say “It’s essential people with diabetes receive all the necessary components of annual check-ups”, and “only when these criteria are met will we begin to see a reduction in complications, recently estimated to cost the NHS around £1 million an hour.”


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