A project to reduce preventable sight loss is to be introduced in Salford, Liverpool and Leeds, following a successful pilot in Bradford. It will benefit an extra 17,000 patients following a £400,000 Department of Health grant.
The 'Living Well with Diabetes' project is a joint working partnership between The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Action for Blind People.
The organisations worked with health professionals and community leaders in Bradford as part of the initial pilot, which saw a 15% increase in the uptake of eye clinic appointments among 400 members of the Pakistani community.
People of South Asian ethnicity may be up to six times more likely to develop diabetes compared to the general population and are therefore at risk of losing their sight due to diabetic retinopathy.
Due to the success of the trial, a grant of £100,000 from Bradford clinical commissioning group was received which enabled RNIB to extend the project to people of all ethnicities living with diabetes in the city. This involved working with 30 GP practices.
The success of the pilot and the award of the Department of Health funding means it will now be extended to reach patients in up to 90 GP surgeries in Salford, Liverpool and Leeds, benefiting more people who are most at risk of developing a diabetes-related eye disease.
As part of the initial pilot, the trial reminders for appointments were sent by text, followed by a telephone call from a bilingual member of staff.
A traditional story drawing on the Islamic faith of the community was also used in the community groups to encourage people to take responsibility for their health. A self-help management folder was given to patients to be used as an organiser and help them share responsibility for the treatment of their diabetes.
Consultant in public health at Bradford and Airedale Teaching Primary Care Trust, Greg Fell, said: “We’ve found a way of implementing self care that actually makes sense to those people who have the condition.”
The RNIB’s evidence and service impact manager for prevention, Helen Lee, said: “Diabetic eye disease is still one of the leading causes of sight loss among working age people in the UK and people of South Asian ethnicity are more at risk than anyone else.
“This project has demonstrated that by pooling resources and sharing expertise in working together, we have been able to reach a significant group of people who might not otherwise engage in eye health services.”
An evaluation of the initial pilot, which was carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, showed that exposure to information about eye health and diabetes rose by 9%, as well as a 23% increase in understanding about the need to check blood sugar levels and attend appointments to reduce the risk of complications.
As a result of the success of the project, the RNIB has been selected as a finalist in the Quality in Care Diabetes 2015 awards, which will take place in October.