Care boost for children with diabetes

Up to 300 children with diabetes unable to access a doctor specifically trained in their treatment for the past six months will be able to do so from next week.

The children, from Limerick and Galway, had not been seen by a consultant paediatric endocrinologist since last May since Clodagh O’Gorman went on sick leave from her post at University Hospital Limerick. Instead, a pool of paediatricians, none specialising in diabetes treatment, have looked after the children.

Diabetes Ireland health promotion and research manager Anna Clarke said the situation was “of major concern” given the impact poor blood sugar control or poor insulin management could have on growth and development issues.

“People with diabetes, especially children, need access to a consultant with a very good understanding of diabetes management and growth and development issues. They need to be able to support the family in use of insulin and good blood sugar control. You have to make sure the children are getting sufficient insulin to maintain growth and development,” Dr Clarke said.

The HSE has confirmed a temporary full-time paediatric endocrinologist will fill the vacant role from today, with her first clinic scheduled for tomorrow.

The service will run additional clinics for the next number of months “to deal with the backlog of clinic appointments —[affecting approximately 60 patients] — arising from not having a full service since last May”, the HSE said. The temporary appointment will plug the gap in the service until Prof O’Gorman returns, scheduled for Oct 2014.

The new endocrinologist will also take responsibility for the Insulin Pump Programme, a treatment being rolled out as part of the HSE’s National Diabetes Clinical Programme.

The insulin pump, a mini-computerised device, which continually infuses insulin under the skin and optimises the blood glucose control, is being offered to under-5s with type-1 diabetes. This type of diabetes is not preventable and people with it have to take insulin regularly in order to stay alive. Children with type-1 diabetes regularly receive up to five insulin injections daily.

Dr Clarke said pump therapy offered a better quality of life and better diabetes management and fewer complications in later life. She said they were delighted with the appointment. However, there should be at least two full-time paediatric endocrinologists in the region, based on best practice.

Diabetes is a serious metabolic condition in which the body fails to produce enough insulin to regulate blood glucose (sugar). There are two types of diabetes (type 1 and 2) and if the condition is not well controlled, it can cause serious health complications. The vast majority of diabetes in childhood is type-1. According to the HSE, the incidence of type-1 diabetes in children is rising yearly and the incidence is at epidemic proportions in the under five age group.

About 15% of all diabetes patients are type-1.

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