Diabetes: 1-in-3 inpatients suffer NHS error, report to claim

David Joseph
Image caption The care of David Joseph was criticised by the ombudsman

Almost one-in-three diabetic inpatients in Wales has experienced at least one NHS medication error, a new report by Diabetes UK Cymru is to reveal.

The charity is concerned because the number of people with diabetes in Wales rose more than a quarter in five years.

Meanwhile figures obtained by BBC Wales show only one of the seven Welsh health boards has taken on more specialist diabetic nurses in the last four years.

One board has cut staffing while the other five have kept the same total.

The Diabetes UK Cymru report to be published on Wednesday reveals diabetes is growing rapidly with an increase of 35,000 people with the condition in Wales over the past five years to 160,000 - a rise of 28%.

By 2025, the number of people with diabetes is forecast to top 250,000 with 66,000 people currently undiagnosed.

Despite the concern, the charity says 70% of adults with type 1 diabetes and 43% with type 2 are not getting simple checks, such as blood glucose tests.

Diabetes UK Cymru director Dai Williams told the BBC Wales Week In Week Out programme: "The cost of diabetes is massive - the bottom line is - it's a ticking time bomb.

"We've got people wandering around with high blood sugars, not even realising it's going to cause a problem."

The report, called State of the Nation 2012, will also claim that 29.8% of inpatients with diabetes experienced at least one medication error while on a ward.

The programme features the family of David Joseph, from Aberaeron, Ceredigion, whose care before his death in 2009 was criticised in April this year by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Peter Tyndall.

Image caption Madie Joseph said she 'foolishly' thought her husband would be safe in hospital

Mr Tyndall raised concerns over clinical record keeping by the Hywel Dda health board and made recommendations.

Mr Joseph's widow, Madie, a former nurse, tells the programme: "We thought, foolishly, that patients with diabetes in hospital would be safe and clearly he was not.

"I still don't understand how they [nurses] could have been so mistaken - so ignorant - and it mustn't happen again to another patient."

The family received an apology following the release of the ombudsman's report.

Week In Week Out has also learned about three more complaints about the treatment of diabetic inpatients at Hywel Dda health board hospitals.

Councillor Elizabeth Evans, a senior case worker for Mark Williams MP, tells the programme the complaints received over the past 18 months include concerns over fluid intake and patients not eating properly.

She says: "Every single case would go into hospital for a very different reason. So it was issues about fluid intake, about food, not eating, and obviously any diabetic specialist will tell you that a diabetic needs to eat."

In a statement Hywel Dda health board said it takes any allegation of a breach of professional standards seriously and an investigation was ongoing.

Hywel Dda was the only health board in Wales which has increased the number of specialist diabetes nurses, from seven in 2008/9 to the equivalent of 12.34 full-time staff in 2012/13.

Cwm Taf in the south Wales valleys was the only board to cut staffing, from the equivalent of 13.89 full-time nurses in 2008/9 to 11 in 2012/13.

Cwm Taf Health Board is pioneering a new scheme to cut diabetes-related medication errors in their hospitals.

It is a highly visible branding campaign called Think Glucose and involves raising awareness of diabetes with all staff throughout every ward.

Hypo Boxes on every medication trolley means treatment can be given to patients suffering a hypoglycemic attack quickly; pre-printed medication charts cut the risk of mis-reading doseage; and colour-coded blood sugar monitoring charts mean that dangerously low blood sugar levels go into a red zone - alerting staff of the need to treat the patient quickly.

The campaign has seen medication errors at one hospital, the Royal Glamorgan, decrease from 50% to 6%.

At the moment, Cwm Taf is the only health board running Think Glucose, but other health boards are showing interest - and Hywel Dda says it will be rolling out the programme in the New Year.

Week In Week Out is on BBC One Wales on Tuesday 20 November at 22:35 GMT.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites