Over 4.5 million people in the UK are affected by diabetes. Today, on World Diabetes Day, it’s important to raise awareness of the condition through this globally recognised event, with over 160 countries taking part. The GP Patient Survey (GPPS), sent to around 2.3 million patients in England each year, provides invaluable insight into the health of those living with diabetes and their experience of local health services.
GPPS data shows that eight percent of patients report living with diabetes and, as with other long-term conditions (LTCs), they are likely to experience multiple health conditions; for example 48% of patients with diabetes also report high-blood pressure, a condition that is experienced by 31% of all those with any LTC overall. More than half of those living with diabetes (58%) reported that their condition(s) reduces their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. While this is a similar percentage to those with any LTC (59%), diabetics were more likely to report that their condition(s) affects their daily life a lot (24% versus 19% for those with any LTC). This could be for a multitude of reasons, for example having to regularly monitor blood sugar levels or taking insulin and other medications, with 70% of those with diabetes reporting that they take five or more medications on a regular basis, more than double the proportion among those with any LTC (34%).
In terms of all these comparisons it should be noted that diabetics are generally older than those with any LTC overall, and as a result some of these differences may be expected as they are more likely to have multiple LTCs. However, in many cases these differences are still evident among younger patients, for example diabetics aged 16-24 are more likely to take five or more medications than those with any LTC of the same age (26% versus 10%).
Experience of GP services
The GPPS shows that patients living with diabetes are high users of GP services; they were more likely to have had a general practice appointment in the last six months (90%), both compared with patients with any LTC (83%) and those with no LTC (60%). Patients with diabetes were more likely to have been seen by a nurse at their last general practice appointment (39% of diabetics, 27% of patients with any LTC and 22% with no LTC).
Those with diabetes tend to be slightly more positive about their overall experience of their GP practice; 86% say it was ‘good’ compared with 84% with any LTC and 82% with no LTC. However, this is not true for all age groups. GPPS data shows that young patients generally are less likely to reflect positively on their overall experience; as shown in Figure 1, young diabetics, aged 16-24, have a significantly less positive experience (73%) compared with young patients with no LTC (79%).
Overall management of diabetes looks positive; patients with diabetes were confident they could manage any issues arising from their condition (83% compared with 84% for any LTC), and report that they are supported by local services or organisations (81% versus 78% for any LTC). In addition, a higher proportion of diabetic patients have had a conversation with a healthcare professional to discuss what is important when managing their condition (56% compared with 39% for those with any LTC).
However, in terms of age, the experience of younger diabetics (aged 16-24) is more mixed. Younger diabetics were more likely to report confidence in managing their condition compared with 16-24 year olds with any LTC (83% compared with 75%), more likely to feel supported by local services (84% compared with 71%), and more likely to have had a conversation with a healthcare professional about managing their condition (51% compared with 40%). In contrast, young diabetics were more likely to report an unexpected stay in hospital in the last 12 months because of their condition(s) (19% compared with eight per cent of young people with any LTC).
The GPPS data highlights the importance of an annual event which raises awareness of the impact of diabetes, particularly for young diabetics. World Diabetes Day can enable people to become more knowledgeable and engage in discussion as to how to ensure those living with the condition feel supported.
The GPPS provides a rich source of information on patient’s experiences of their GP practice. The data for this article was analysed using the GPPS analysis tool, which you can use to create your own subgroups of interest at www.gp-patient.co.uk/analysistool. For more information, please email the team at GPPatientSurvey@ipsos.com.
Ipsos MORI administers the GPPS on behalf of NHS England. This is the thirteenth year that the GPPS has been conducted in England. The latest survey consisted of around 2.3 million postal questionnaires sent to adults registered with GP practices in England from January to the end of March 2019. Around 770,000 patients completed and returned a questionnaire, resulting in a national response rate of 33.1%. Data is weighted to match the profile of the population. The data reported on this page is weighted. Read further technical information about how the survey works. For more general information about the survey, and to access the data see www.gp-patient.co.uk.