Cheshire and Merseyside Diabetes lead behind national effort to highlight the importance of getting language right
Professor Sarah O’Brien, Diabetes lead for Cheshire and Merseyside is urging other local healthcare professionals 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.
Professor O’Brien said “We have over 110,000 people living with diabetes across Cheshire and Merseyside, not including those who are undiagnosed.
“We want to ensure that all of these people live long and healthy lives. It is so important that their experiences with health and care professionals is a positive one and that they build up relationships with them in order to stay healthy for longer.
“I welcome the publication of the Language Matters guidance and encourage all health and care professionals to use it.”
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.”