A diabetes charity is educating GPs in Wales on how to spot the signs of type 1 diabetes as part of a campaign aiming to diagnose people who unaware that they are living with the condition.
Diabetes UK Cymru has provided Welsh doctors with an informative resource kit after 13-year-old Peter Baldwin from Cardiff had undiagnosed type 1 diabetes and died after going into DKA.
His family took him to his GP for a routine appointment as he was showing flu like symptoms, but he was diagnosed with a chest infection and went home with a course of antibiotics.
With Peters symptoms worsening 24 hours later, his mother Beth called 999 where a first responder diagnosed the 13-year-old with type 1 diabetes after doing a finger prick test.
Peters blood glucose level was extremely high, and he was already in DKA. The teenager was rushed to A&E, but Peter sadly passed away a few days later after falling into a diabetic coma.
Now every GP practice in Wales has been sent an up-to-date resource kit which includes information about type 1 diabetes, how to diagnose and signpost patients and most importantly, a reminder to THINK about the four Ts – toilet, thirsty, tired and thinner.
If any of these symptoms are flagged during a routine appointment, GPs are being asked to perform a simple finger prick test to check blood glucose levels.
Diabetes UK Cymru is also asking GP surgeries to compete a simple checklist to become certified by the charity in the ‘four Ts’ demonstrating their commitment to recognising the symptoms of type 1 diabetes.
Leanne Jenkins, Diabetes UK Clinical Advisor, said: “GPs are often the first point of call for parents worried about a child’s deteriorating health, and common flu like symptoms can see families like Peter’s sent home with antibiotics when a simple finger prick test and a few questions could have saved his life.
“We hope that by raising awareness of Peter’s story and sending out the new resource pack, it will encourage all health care professionals to think of the four Ts, ask the questions and do a finger prick test.”
She added: “Taking these actions can lead to earlier identification of type 1 diabetes, prevent DKA and save lives.”
Rachel Burr, Director of Diabetes UK Cymru, said: “By sharing Peter’s story and our new resources kit for GPs our goal is to raise awareness of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and DKA, educate about early warning signs and promote the ELSA study, a UK wide study offering early testing for type 1 diabetes in children aged three to 13.
“With improved knowledge, education and action, we can ensure that healthcare professionals are better equipped to test for and diagnose type 1 diabetes.”
Dr Ambika Shetty, Clinic Lead for Paediatric Diabetes at the Children’s Hospital of Wales, noted: “The rising prevalence of DKA at diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in children is a concern across Wales that needs to be addressed.
“DKA at diagnosis is an emergency condition and is associated with higher mortality and poorer long-term outcomes.”
Dr Shetty added: “There is a clear need for early and timely diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in children and young people.
“The gold standard and message to our primary care colleagues is to ask about the four Ts and check finger prick blood glucose, followed by same day referral to the nearest children’s assessment unit. Screening programmes such as ELSA to promote early diagnosis should also be considered.”
Peter’s mum Beth has campaigned tirelessly since 2015 to raise awareness about diabetes type 1. The campaigning has influenced government policy and practice.
Beth says: “To date, Peters Legacy has saved 12 lives by making sure children have received a prompt diagnosis and avoided DKA.
“We need to make everyone aware of the symptoms of type 1 so other families don’t have to go through the heartbreak of losing a child, especially when it could have been prevented.”
She added: “I want to say a huge thank you to US pharmaceutical company Provention Bio, who heard me speak at an event and was so moved by our story that they made a donation to help educate primary care across Wales. We couldn’t have created this campaign without their support.”