A leading UK diabetes expert is reminding people with any type of diabetes to follow government recommendations on the importance to stay at home if they can during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the health crisis was recognised as a global pandemic there has been some confusion over coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations within the diabetes community.
Many people with diabetes have raised concern about whether they are more at risk of developing the virus.
Although there is no official statement from the NHS on the risk of having the coronavirus (COVID-19) and living with diabetes it is recommended that the same safety precautions are observed as when sick.
Professor Partha Kar, National Specialty Advisor for Diabetes with NHS England
Professor Partha Kar, National Specialty Advisor for Diabetes with NHS England and Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “According to current available data, people with diabetes don’t appear to be at a higher risk of developing COVID-19 but if they contract it, the emerging data suggests that having diabetes is a risk factor to developing poorer outcomes.
“Thus, this group has been asked to stay at home, like the rest of the population, unless it is essential for them to continue working. To help reduce the risks, the idea is to try and look after their diabetes as best as possible, along with awareness of sick days rules. It is important to appreciate that the advice is based on data as they become available.”
Regarding whether people with diabetes could continue to work during the lockdown period Professor Kar added: “The basic principle is to see whether line managers, Trusts, employers can look at giving jobs which minimise risk to the person, such as virtual working and back room administrative work.
“However, in some cases, this will not be feasible, such as if the person is an anaesthetist, ITU nurse or GP, just to give a few examples. Due to wider workforce issues and thus in such circumstances, the decision is far tougher and if their roles can’t be covered, when at work, all necessary precautions in regard to avoidance of transmission needs to be followed.
“I would ask employers to consider the needs of the individual, reassess how essential their work is, whether alternatives can be provided. Local teams should also have a role in advising accordingly. It’s also important that the individual appreciates the unprecedented times we are in and the need of essential healthcare staff in a national healthcare emergency.”
Early reports suggest that children with type 1 diabetes appear to have a lower risk of harm with COVID-19
For parents who are key workers with children with type 1 diabetes there have been question marks about whether they should continue going to work.
Professor Kar said: “This is yet another difficult scenario. Where the balance is about pragmatism and personal choice, the wider workforce and need of society in these times must also be considered. Of note, children with type 1 diabetes, at this point and as per data, appear to have a lower risk of harm with COVID-19 - but again, this is based on data sets as they become available in a global pandemic.”
A recently published report from the International Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD) about children with diabetes and coronavirus was based on input from Paediatric Endocrinologists in Italy and China who stated that to date “no cases of COVID-19 in youth with diabetes” had required admittance to hospital.
The ISPAD report highlighted the “importance of continued attentiveness to standard diabetes care to avoid the need for hospitalisation and emergency or urgent care visits, but to utilise these resources if needed”.
People living with diabetes who have additional chronic health conditions may be recommended to self-isolate for a period of 12 weeks if they fall into categories outlined in a recently published Department of Health report.
During self-isolation people with diabetes are recommended to attend virtual clinics so they can continue seeking diabetes support from their healthcare teams.
Professor Kar said: “Although there are virtual clinics and phone call appointments available, when it comes to diabetes, self-management will hold the key with people having awareness of sick day rules. However, it’s worth remembering that as COVID-19 spreads it’s likely that a lot of teams will be involved in emergency work and so will not always be available for even virtual routine clinical reviews.”
The DRWF team is now working remotely. COVID-19 guidance, particularly where it aligns or impacts with diabetes guidance, is shared as quickly as possible through the DRWF website and social media channels with the aim of making it as easy to understand as possible and a reliable source of latest news.
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Read Healthcare professionals recommendations for people with diabetes during the COVID-19 crisis
Read Washing your hands and home isolation advice from Public Health England to help prevent the spread of COVID-19