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17th Feb 2022

How my Grandfather’s journey led me here

Our co-founder Dr Paul Baker shares a personal story about how his grandad’s battle to accept his type 2 diabetes diagnosis reshaped his professional approach to diabetes care.  

 

The diabetes health crisis 

Diabetes is a major health crisis facing the UK today. It affects 4.9 million people, 90% of whom have type 2 diabetes. 850,000 more are living with the condition but are yet to be diagnosed. Diabetes is a public health issue on a vast scale, but we must never forget that diabetes patients are not just statistics. Beneath the eye-watering figures and newspaper headlines, there are personal stories about how the diagnosis affects ordinary people in their day to day lives.  

 

My grandad’s life-changing diagnosis 

My grandad (David) was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes many years ago after a routine blood test at his GP surgery, and his reaction is something that has always remained with me. Like so many newly diagnosed patients, he was confused, shocked and upset, and he struggled to process what the diagnosis meant for him and how it would affect his health.   

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was a life-changing event for him. Initially, he experienced a lot of denial; he was gripped with an inescapable sense that it couldn’t happen to him and that the doctors had got it wrong and made a mistake.  

Receiving a diagnosis like that is often hard to hear, and it takes time to sink in; it’s something I experience very frequently with my patients in the NHS as a GP. 

When he was first diagnosed, I noticed that there was little support and guidance available to him and other patients during the early stages of diagnosis. Yet such support can really make all the difference. He received mixed messages and confusing advice from the people he spoke to and inevitably began to feel at a loss about how to navigate the new health landscape that he had unexpectedly found himself in.  

 

How Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors was born  

Mixed advice confused my grandad. He had a shock new health diagnosis, which was compounded by a lack of understanding of his new condition and a deficit of clear, accessible and reliable professional support during this crucial early stage.  

The diagnosis was always on his mind and knocked his confidence in the last few years before he died. He became increasingly withdrawn and frustrated, due in no small part to the fact that he had not been equipped with the information and medical support he needed.  

Seeing my grandad’s struggle after he was first diagnosed, provided me with the inspiration to set up Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors. I wanted to do something practical to make a difference in the lives of patients with type 2 diabetes and those at high risk of developing the condition.  

My personal experience with my grandad transformed my personal and professional outlook on diabetes care. I wanted to help patients avoid the difficulties he faced and enable them to be better equipped to manage their condition effectively. Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors provides the opportunity to participate in an online 12-week evidence-based programme, focused on diet and lifestyle behaviour change that can be personalised to the individual. 

The specialised support we can offer includes access to trained medical professionals such as doctors, health and wellness coaches, and dietitians. We also provide access to healthy recipes, a collection of resources including video content, guides, and a community support network hosted on social media.  

 

Bridging the diabetes care gap 

As someone who has worked in the NHS for many years, I know first-hand the fantastic work my colleagues do to support type 2 diabetes patients. The NHS spends an estimated £10 billion a year fighting diabetes; however, nearly 80% of it is spent treating the complications. By this stage, a lot of the damage is already done and could have been prevented through early lifestyle intervention.  

One of the big problems all GPs face is limited resources and a lack of time due to their heavy workload. For patients with type 2 diabetes, this often means that GPs are unable to provide patients with comprehensive and dedicated guidance and support during the initial stages of diagnosis. Early intervention can make the difference and stop future health problems before they even start. Our work aims to bridge the diabetes care gap in the NHS through a doctor-founded programme of patient-centred support.  

 

Empowering people 

This isn’t about mollycoddling people and telling them how to live their lives; it’s about giving them the tools to take control of their metabolic and overall health. If done in the right way, this can be a patient-empowering experience that can transform the management of their condition and help them to avoid future health complications through diet and lifestyle change. We are passionate about improving the accessibility of diabetes care to as many patients as possible, and I’m looking forward to seeing the difference we can make in patients’ lives through our exciting new service.