Jenny Hirst:To help and support people with diabetes and to try to ensure that they have an informed choice of treatment. This is especially important for people who have adverse reactions to synthetic insulins and need animal insulin.
Question: What campaigns do you plan to initiate or continue this parliamentary session?
Jenny Hirst:It’s our intention to keep the agenda of insulin choice at the front of people’s minds - especially at the Department of Health. We believe that NICE should assess all insulin and issue guidance on their use, in order to provide patients and clinicians with an independent source of information.
Question: How important is it for people with diabetes to be able to get animal-derived insulins? How can the government/decision makers help with this issue?
Jenny Hirst:There are two issues relating to animal insulins. Firstly, continued availability of animal insulins is vital because we estimate that approximately 10 per cent of people with diabetes experience adverse - or even allergic- reactions to synthetic human and analogue insulin.
The government need to ensure that animal insulins are freely available on the NHS by putting pressure on the main insulin providers who are now stopping production of animal insulin. Secondly, the government can help by making sure that healthcare professionals are aware that animal insulin is still available.
Question: The IDDT is an international organisation, how does it support other, similar organisations, especially in the developing world?
Jenny Hirst:As the UK-arm of an Australian organisation called Insulin for Life, we collect unwanted, in-date insulin here, and send it out to the developing countries. The insulin goes to the doctors in diabetic clinics in the developing world. Without this service, people can die in these poorer countries due to lack of affordable supplies.
Question: A recent Healthcare Commission report suggested that the NHS is not doing enough to educate people with diabetes - what is the IDDT's response to this?
Jenny Hirst:The IDDT wholly supports the Healthcare Commission’s report. We are fully aware that our members are not getting enough information. The absence of proper education means that people with diabetes find it harder to self-manage their condition. We will shortly be issuing a report, which suggests that PCTs should look at their expenditure on insulin to see if they can reduce spending, and use that money on improved educational resources for patients. Better informed patients would be more able to self-manage their condition to help protect against the health complications which people with diabetes can suffer in later life.
Question: Following on from this, how does the IDDT plan to improve the availability of information about the health complications that can be caused by diabetes?
Jenny Hirst:We have a national advertising campaign aimed at letting people with diabetes know who we are and what we can do for them. We also make sure that healthcare professionals are aware that we can provide information for their patients about diabetes and its potential complications.
Question: The board of the IDDT are all either diabetics or are close to a diabetes sufferer, how does this unique setup effect the IDDT's approach?
Jenny Hirst:It affects our approach in that we have a different understanding of the problems of diabetes. Often, the problems perceived by healthcare professionals and people who don’t have diabetes, for example, having to receive regular injections, are not the major issues for people who do have diabetes.
We know from first hand experience what the problems really are; for people with type 1 diabetes it is more often that the day to day issues of dieting and frequent checking of blood sugar. These are the issues that can really wear people down, and can cause a generally exhausted approach to their diabetes.
Question: Do you have any upcoming events or seminars which you would like ePolitix.com readers to be aware of?
Jenny Hirst:We have our annual meeting on the October 13 in Birmingham. That will be a combination of doctors speaking about diabetes and discussion groups for people with diabetes and their family carers.
These discussion groups are key as they give people an opportunity to talk to other people in very similar situations. Sometimes this is the only opportunity to do so. We are also going to launch our report '30 years of Synthetic Insulin: Are people getting the best deal?’ This aims to address some of our key concerns about synthetic insulins.
Apart from our very real concerns about the adverse reactions, we also want to show that the long term safety of these treatments has not been established. This is of special concern as they are a firstline treatment. Also, these new insulins are significantly more expensive, but have not been proved to be better than animal insulins.
Question: Do you have any final messages for ePolitix.com readers?
Jenny Hirst:Yes, that the needs of patients need to be taken account of. Despite all the rhetoric of ‘patient choice’ that we hear from the NHS, the reality is that a lot of patients are not getting an opportunity for a truly informed choice.