2021 is the year to Think Diabetes in the Workplace

December 8, 2020


Diabetes is one of our biggest health challenges so is it time to embed specialist education to combat this life-changing condition into the workplace? Rod Watson, Senior Project Manager for Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes at the Health Innovation Network (HIN) sets out four easy steps to help Human Resources Directors and Occupational Health Managers, truly support employees with diabetes as we prepare for 2021.

Employers have an incentive to keep their staff safe and happy at work. As we know a healthy and happy workforce is a productive workforce. For workers living with a chronic health condition such as Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, their condition is something they must manage daily and of course while at work. There are ways to support your staff to manage their diabetes and structured education programmes are part of the solution.

So how does structured education work? Diabetes structured education programmes aim to improve knowledge, skills and confidence for people with diabetes. It is proven to increase their ability to manage their condition and is recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). This means structured education is clinically proven to help people with diabetes make positive changes to their diet and lifestyle.

There are several accredited providers of diabetes structured education in the UK and below are the ones that I have worked with and can recommend.

So how might you go about supporting your staff with diabetes to get access to structured education?
These four simple steps will show you how.

1. Be aware of the Equalities Act (2010) and be prepared to make reasonable adjustments for your employees
Diabetes is covered by the Equalities Act (2010) which means employers are obliged to make reasonable adjustments for staff. Reasonable adjustments can vary from one person and situation to another based on the individual’s needs and the those of the employer. An example of a reasonable adjustment could be allowing your staff with diabetes time away from work to attend a structured education programme.

2. Review your company’s relevant policies

I have worked with several organisations who updated key policies to make it easier for staff to attend structured education. Their case studies are detailed in this report entitled: Think Diabetes: Supporting a Cultural Shift in the Workplace. Does your organisation have a health and wellbeing strategy for staff? If so, you are ideally placed to adopt activities as suggested in the next steps.

3. Commission online and/or face-to-face diabetes structured education programmes via your workplace

There are several NHS approved providers of diabetes structured education I can highly recommend. For online programmes, Second Nature and Oviva are national leaders. Both providers have a strong and well-established relationship with the NHS. They offer programmes for people with Type 2 diabetes ranging between eight and twelve weeks.

Course sessions are delivered remotely via a coach with access to online advice, support and information. Participants use their phone, laptop or tablet to access the programmes remotely via the internet and via calls on a telephone at times convenient to them.
DESMOND is a national provider of face-to-face diabetes education. Trained facilitators can run sessions at your workplace which has the added advantage of peer support among staff within an organisation. A DESMOND session is usually one day or two half-days in length.

4. Support access to and encourage attendance at diabetes structured education programmes

How does all this look in practice? Following the steps above, Transport For London and the London Ambulance Service took part in an initiative supporting their staff with Type 2 diabetes accessing structured education.
The results were overwhelmingly positive. Not only did participating staff find it acceptable to be offered and to attend structured education at work, or via the workplace, they viewed their organisation’s support to help them to manage their diabetes very favourably indeed.

A full evaluation report of this initiative, including a range of recommendations for further action can be read here. A two page summary of this evaluation can be read here.

I strongly encourage you to download the Think Diabetes resources for more detail on these exciting initiatives. If you have any questions or comments about how you can further support your staff with diabetes in the workplace, please drop me a comment or message.