News item:Medication mistakes rife amongst diabetes sufferers

May 28, 2012

A recent audit revealed that almost 1 in 3 hospital patients suffering from diabetes have been inflicted by medication mistakes that can result in abnormally low or high blood glucose levels.

The checks have discovered that hospitals throughout the country have made at least one error in the treatment of more than 3,500 people with diabetes throughout a seven day period.

The order covered almost 13,000 patients in 230 hospitals. This has shown some improvement on earlier figures in England alone, but Diabetes UK, the biggest charity in this health arena, said the general picture could be seen as an “indictment” of National Health Service care of diabetics.

Its CEO, Barbara Young, said that in the light of these recurring mistakes, a length of time in hospital meant that the health of a significant minority of patients deteriorated and this should not be the case.

She also stated that poor blood glucose supervision, caused by mistakes in hospital treatment, is bringing about extreme and dire consequences for far too many sufferers. For example, a number of diabetic ketoacidosis episodes have been reported due to extremely elevated blood glucose levels brought on by insufficient insulin.

The audit was managed by Diabetes UK and the NHS’s Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Patients who bore the burden of medication mistakes suffered more than twice the number of extreme hypoglycaemic episodes than patients free of mistakes. These take place when blood glucose drops dangerously and, if not treated, can bring about seizures, death or coma.

Additionally, nearly 70 patients started to show abnormally high blood glucose levels, a problem known as DKA, while in hospital. DKA takes place when blood glucose levels remain high, which means that insulin was not given for a long space of time. This abnormality can cause death if left untreated.

Throughout the checking period, 68 patients encountered DKA after being admitted to hospital. The audit revealed that hospitals did not have sufficient staff who were expert in diabetes, particularly those who had an in depth understanding of foot care.

Around 100 people suffering from diabetes undergo leg, toe or foot amputations every week in England, a lot of which could have been prevented, Diabetes UK emphasised.

Gerry Rayman, a consultant physician in Ipswich, said that diabetes care was not good enough and many doctors and nurses did not have the basic training required for insulin management and glucose control.