One in five diabetes inpatients experienced hypoglycemia during hospital stay

Diabetes UK is urging healthcare professionals to be hypo-aware for Hypo-awareness Week (24th- 30th September). The charity wants to raise awareness about hypoglycaemia and is encouraging healthcare professionals working in hospitals to look out for the signs of hypoglycemia (hypo) and ensure those at high risk are given the necessary support.

An episode of Hypoglycemia is dangerous, and can lead to unconsciousness and coma. The most recent NHS National Diabetes Inpatient Audit showed that, for the second year running, almost one in five (18%) diabetes inpatients experienced a hypo during their stay in hospital.

Hypoglycaemia occurs when the blood glucose levels of someone with diabetes drop too low, usually below 4 mmol/l. This can happen for various reasons, including missing meals, not having enough carbohydrates, or taking more insulin than needed. An untreated hypoglycemic episode can lead to blurred vision, confusion, seizures and, in severe cases, unconsciousness and coma.

The audits also found that the majority of hypoglycemic episodes occurred between 5:00 am and 8:59 am, when inpatients are sleeping and have less access to sugary snacks which will maintain their glucose levels.

The annual NHS Diabetes Inpatient Audits show gradual improvements to care for inpatients with diabetes, but the proportion of inpatients experiencing a hypo in hospital has remained close to one in five. In 2017, 58,000 inpatients with diabetes experienced a severe episode of hypoglycaemia, according to Diabetes UK’s Making Hospitals Safer For People With Diabetes Report, which will be released on October 8th.

Emily Watts, Diabetes UK’s Inpatient Care Program Manager, said:

Hypos are dangerous, particularly for inpatients whose hypo-awareness is low because they are sick and less able to spot the tell-tale signs. It’s so important for healthcare professionals working in hospitals to be aware of patients who are particularly at risk of hypos.

With 58,000 inpatients with diabetes experiencing a severe case of hypoglycemia in 2017 highlights the urgent need for changes in how diabetes inpatients are cared for and supported during their hospital stays. Our report makes clear, simple recommendations for healthcare professionals to adopt which will ensure that every hospital stay for someone with diabetes is as safe as is possible.”

Incidence of hypos at hospital is one of the focal points of Diabetes UK’s Making Hospitals Safer For People With Diabetes Report. The report examines the state of care for diabetes inpatients, and makes recommendations for improvement. With tens of thousands of diabetes inpatients still experiencing severe hypos each year, it’s vital that care for diabetes inpatients is improved.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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