#LanguageMatters for Diabetes Week: NHS England to boost supportive type 1 diabetes conversations in clinics

Posted on 11 June 2018

Doctor discussing a patient's diabetes with him

A new guide for healthcare professionals has been published by NHS England to help them navigate the complex world of diabetes care – and talk to people living with the condition constructively.

The launch of Language Matters coincides with Diabetes Week (11-17 June). 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, explains how the language used by healthcare professionals can have a profound impact on people living with the condition, 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. The report also reminds healthcare professionals that poor communication can stigmatise, upset, undermine self-care and have a detrimental impact on patient care.

The report asks healthcare professionals asking a patient “what’s your diabetes control like?” to bear in mind the following:

“For someone with diabetes, this question seems to focus solely on their diabetes rather than on their whole life, how diabetes fits in to it and what challenges or successes they have experienced.

“It may also assume that diabetes can, in fact, be ‘controlled’, ignoring the many variables that contribute to clinical outcomes, and the daily efforts people make to incorporate the demands of diabetes into their lives.”

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.”

Karen Addington, UK Chief Executive of the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said:

“Healthcare professionals do an amazing job. But small words can have a big impact – especially when someone is struggling with their diabetes. That’s why we welcome NHS England’s Language Matters document.”

Why language matters in the clinic: Hear from people with type 1

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