Getting GPs to buy into the new national diabetes prevention programme is vital to its success, according to the GP lead on one of the pilots for the scheme.
Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event in London, Dr Richard Mendelsohn, clinical lead at NHS South Central Birmingham CCG, said GP enthusiasm for the scheme was ‘what makes the difference’ with recruitment of at-risk groups to the scheme.
Under the national programme run by NHS England and Public Health England (PHE), GPs are being encouraged to targets people with ‘non-diabetic dysglycaemia’ who are at high risk for diabetes and refer them to intensive lifestyle change programmes, involving group activities like cookery and Zumba classes.
The scheme launched last year at seven pilot – or ‘demonstrator’ – sites and is being rolled out to a further 20 sites this year.
The 22 GP practices in the South Central Birmingham pilot have so far identified and written to over 9,500 at-risk patients suitable for the prevention programme.
Of these, some 1,300 have already attended or are signed up for lifestyle change classes – around one in seven of those originally invited.
Dr Mendelsohn stressed that there was no link between uptake and deprivation, however, as uptake was a lot higher than this – around 60% – in some practices with relatively poor populations, where GPs had been more proactive by using follow-up letters and phone calls to encourage patients to engage.
Dr Mendelsohn said: ‘One of the worries we had was the potential increase in inequalities. But we’ve looked very closely to see if there is a correlation between deprivation and lack of uptake and there doesn’t seem to be.
‘What makes the difference is the enthusiasm of the GP and the practice. We’ve got one or two deprived practices where they have 60% uptake. And some others that we thought that they would be doing quite well are in the single figures.’
The national diabetes programme has come under criticism from some GP experts for potentially over-exaggerating the potential benefits of intensive lifestyle intervention in ‘real world’ patients, who may be less able or motivated to take up exercise and change their diet than trial participants.
Some evidence to date has suggested uptake has also been fairly low in other demonstrator sites for the programme – and a recent report to NHS England on the demonstrator sites showed that overall, around one in six people identified had ultimately taken up the offer of the lifestyle intervention classes.