Getting Language Right for Diabetes Week

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Thurrock clinicians behind national effort to highlight the importance of getting language right in Diabetes

Dr Anjan Bose, Chair of South West Essex Diabetes Network and Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group Board Member, is urging other healthcare professionals in Thurrock to read a new guide that has been published to help them navigate the often complex world of diabetes care and treat patients living with the disease sensitively.

The launch of Language Matters coincides with Diabetes Week (11-17 June) and this year’s theme tackles the issue of difficult conversations – aiming to make it easier for people to have tricky or awkward discussions with medical professionals, friends or family.

The new advice, developed by NHS England in partnership with seven other organisations and charities, including Diabetes UK and JDRF, explains how the language used by healthcare professionals can have a profound impact on people living with the disease, and those who care for them – both good and bad.

There is lots of evidence from around the world as to how language affects those with diabetes and the guide sets out a number of practical examples, based on research and supported by a simple set of principles.

It makes clear that good use of language, both verbal and written has the power to lower anxiety, build confidence, educate and help people to improve self-care, while reminding healthcare professionals that poor communication can stigmatise, upset, undermine self-care and have a detrimental impact on patient care.

Dr Bose, said: “With nearly 9,000 people living in Thurrock with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, being able to understand the condition and how to manage it is key in helping people to live well. In Thurrock we have a number of initiatives to support people with diabetes including SWEET courses to educate and support people to live well with diabetes.

“Thurrock CCG and GP Practices have been referring into the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which began in 2016. This has helped many people to stop diabetes in its tracks, providing a Healthier You programme. We also have our Living with Diabetes Days, in partnership with Diabetes UK.

Dr Partha Kar, Associate National Clinical Director, for diabetes at NHS England, said: “Diabetes Week provides a timely opportunity for us to raise the issue of language used in the treatment and care of patients. How we interact with those living with diabetes is fundamental to the management of their condition - the tone and words used - all have a bearing on how they look after their diabetes.

“Language Matters provides useful advice on things such as alternatives to commonly used phrases which may cause offence to some - it is a practical handbook for healthcare professionals, designed to be used and referred to in a clinical setting, rather than sit on a shelf.”

Chris Askew, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: “Whether you’re living with a diagnosis of diabetes, or have a friend or a loved one who is, it can be hard to know how to start tricky conversations about living with and managing this serious, complex condition. It’s important we make sure that people talking about diabetes feel safe to explore the issue, and that first and foremost that they are being treated and respected as a human being.

“We’re proud to have been part of the development of Language Matters; it sets out clear guidelines for healthcare professionals for how to put the person’s needs first, and to consider the impact of the language they use as well as the intention.

“Positive conversations can open the door to better care, better treatment at school and in the workplace and a better quality of life for everyone. This week (11-17 June) marks Diabetes Week and is the perfect opportunity for all of us to look at how we talk about diabetes and to ensure that everyone in the diabetes community feels supported and understood.”

Karen Addington, UK Chief Executive of JDRF, said: “Healthcare professionals do an amazing job. But small words can have a big impact - especially when someone is struggling with their Type 1 diabetes. That’s why we welcome NHS England’s Language Matters document.”


For Healthcare Providers, Language Matters can be downloaded from: 

For the public living with Type 2 Diabetes, there is also a Living With Diabetes Day planned for 29 June at The Beehive in Grays to book or for more information visit: 

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