A UK first of its kind trial suggests mental health treatment could be vital in reducing hospital admissions and time spent in hospital for people with severe diabetes.
Consultants at Barts Health NHS Trust and East London Foundation Trust discovered that the likelihood of being admitted to hospital with recurrent diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) could be greatly reduced by mental health interventions.
DKA is a serious and potentially fatal complication of diabetes and develops when the body does not have enough insulin to allow blood sugar into cells for use as energy. Instead, the liver breaks down fat for fuel which produces acids called ketones.
DKA is the leading cause of death for people under 30 living with type 1 diabetes.
Research has previously revealed a link between DKA and depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
The assessment involved 20 patients aged from 22 to 37 who had been diagnosed with a mental health condition and had visited hospital in the previous year with issues linked to their type 1 diabetes.
The participants were provided with 12 to 18 months of specialist treatment such as medication, therapy and support with benefits and housing.
Results showed a 20 per cent decrease in hospital admissions for those at great risk of DKA and the number of bed days halved. The consultants estimated that bed days reduced by 125 days within a year, which saved more than £159,000.
Dr Chris Garrett, consultant diabetes psychiatrist at Barts Health NHS Trust who led the trial, believes that patient outcomes could be greatly improved by coordinating mental health and diabetes care.
He said: “If your glucose levels are high, it impacts your concentration and your mood. The same can apply in the other direction: if you feel low for a while it can affect how you look after your diabetes.”
According to Dr Garrett, many of his patients refer to ‘diabetes distress’, when they feel overwhelmed and defeated by their diabetes.
He added: “A lot of patients feel a heightened anxiety around the complications. It also gets in the way of friendships with loved ones, and they don’t feel supported.”
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash.