Call for diabetes screening in care homes

CARE homes in England should screen for diabetes to identify the significant proportion of undiagnosed cases among residents.

This is main the recommendation to emerge from the first-ever England-wide Care Home Diabetes Audit based on the results of a study led by the Institute of Diabetes for Older People (IDOP) and the ABCD(Association of British Clinical Diabetologists) and published last autumn.

Professor Alan Sinclair, audit lead and Director of IDOP, which is based at the University of Bedfordshire, said: "We appreciate the strain placed on care home staff but the results of the audit demonstrated major concerns which need urgent attention.

"The results found one in 10 care home residents were reported as having diabetes, although this figure is at odds with previous research that showed as many as 26 per cent of all care home residents actually have diabetes.

"However, we also know there are masses of people with diabetes in care homes who are undiagnosed. The longer it takes them to become diagnosed, the more their health will suffer, leading to the potential of the development of unseen complications. Screening for diabetes should be a fundamental policy for every care home."

Other recommendations addressing the findings of the study include ensuring that patients who self-medicate are monitored and their ability to self-medicate assessed at regular intervals. Care homes should also establish good communication with primary care, liaising with GPs and community teams to ensure annual reviews and other scheduled checks take place and inform care practice. There should be a diabetes screening policy for all residents at admission to care homes and later at reasonable intervals.

The study also recommends that care homes should have a fully-stocked hypoglycaemia kit and awareness of risks among staff and residents. It also revealed a third of residents (35.17 per cent) did not know about the signs and symptoms of hypoglycaemia and more than 35 per cent of homes did not have a written policy for managing hypoglycaemia.