More than 260,000 diabetes inpatients experienced a medication error during their hospital stay last year – putting them at risk of lasting harm or death, a report has warned.
The charity Diabetes UK said that of these, 9,600 diabetes inpatients experienced a serious and potentially life-threatening episode of hypoglycaemia because of poor insulin management during their hospital stay.
More than a million people with diabetes were admitted to hospital last year, and one in six hospital beds are currently occupied by people with diabetes. This number is expected to rise to one in four by 2030.
The report was compiled from visits to hospitals across the UK where the authors spoke to patients with diabetes, inpatient teams, healthcare professionals and hospital managers.
The charity said it is now calling for hospitals to adopt six key requirements which would make them safe for people with diabetes, lead to better patient experiences, and shorter lengths of stay.
Inpatients with diabetes have higher infection rates and longer lengths of stay (one to three days longer than patients without diabetes), leading to greater NHS spending and workload.
Diabetes inpatient care costs the NHS £2.5 billion a year – 11% of the annual inpatient budget.
Diabetes UK said adopting its recommendations and having the right workforce in place could significantly reduce NHS spending and alleviate the strain on services.
For example, investing £5 million on new diabetes inpatient specialist nursing services in 54 trusts would yield savings of £14 million a year, a net saving of £9 million annually.
It also suggests better training for health care professionals to help them understand diabetes and more support to help hospitals learn from mistakes.
Emily Watts, the charity’s inpatient programme manager and co-author of the report, said: “Nine thousand six hundred people experiencing a severe, potentially life-threatening episode of hypoglycaemia because of inadequate care whilst in hospital, a place where people should feel supported and safe, is shocking and unacceptable.
“We hope our report will serve as a wake-up call, and lead to system-wide changes which make hospitals safe for people living with diabetes.
“Over a million people with diabetes spend time in hospital every year.