Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Reimagining Peer Support

I’ve had a few interesting conversations about Peer Support this week and it’s really got me thinking about what this is really all about.

At the start, the aim was to try and use volunteers like Louise and I to undertake some training and then go about creating a network of people who could meet up and provide support to each other for managing diabetes.

It’s not necessarily turned out that way but so far I think it’s been successful in terms of seeing what works well and how it can be improved to more fit the needs of people with diabetes.

Where it’s been most difficult is trying to get a group of people together socially.  I think that’s mostly down to trying to find a date, time and venue that’s actually convenient for people and then managing those unforeseen circumstances that can prevent people from attending.  I don’t necessarily think that’s a Peer Support specific thing, though perhaps it’s made a little more difficult trying to co-ordinate people you don’t know too well.

Where I think it has worked well is building more of an online community and allowing more casual interactions with people who are looking for advice on something specific, as well as looking for someone to talk to when things are getting on top of them.  Hopefully having that outlet is beneficial for people.

What all this has lead me to is a bit of a reimagining of what Peer Support could look like and how it perhaps integrates with other services that are beneficial to people with diabetes.

As you may know, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have Care Pathways which are basically a set of agreed standards for how people with a particular condition (in this case, diabetes) should be treated.  If you want to investigate the diabetes care pathways, you can do so on the NICE website.

I’ve often thought about a similar “support pathway” and how various voluntary services (like Peer Support) can be used to help patients with long term conditions.   My recent conversations have made me look again at what is available to people (and what should be available) and I think that will help clarify the role of Peer Support.

In Sheffield we have a Diabetes UK Group that run monthly meetings where people can get together and socialise before listening to a speaker who talks about a specific aspect of diabetes.  It occurred to me that instead of trying to create a separate network of people with Peer Support, that by building up individual relationships and then encouraging people to attend an already established group, this may be more beneficial.

By contrast, there’s currently no family/children group in the city (though that’s hopefully a work in progress) so for young adults moving from paediatric care to adult care there’s no real support provision.  As I’m sure many people will attest to, becoming wholly responsible for your own care is a big thing and rightly needs support.

It’s examples such as this and perhaps students coming to the city to go to university that I think really shows the need for Peer Support and the possible benefits it can have on people with diabetes.

It’s not always easy to engage younger adults in the importance of their care, or in getting them to admit to needing support.  It’s often a busy time of life and many people (myself included when I was younger) don’t like to admit that managing their health is difficult and that reaching out to either another individual or a group can be a huge step.  But I think the benefits are there for all to see and that means groups and individuals have to do a better job at selling those benefits and engaging with those who need support the most.

I think the future of Peer Support in Sheffield will be focused on engaging with individuals proactively (which has proven successful so far) and talking to those who seek out the service.  I think by cultivating those relationships and getting those who want more support to engage with a local group will be beneficial and hopefully mean they will be able to speak positively about their experiences and advocate it for others.

Support isn’t a “one size fits all” thing.  Tailoring any approach has to be individual and not everyone will be comfortable being part of a group, or having ongoing individual contact.  For others, being part of a group will be a huge eye opener about the wealth of information that’s out there.  As with clinical care, support has to be right for individuals and hopefully that can continue with a fresh approach in 2015.

Remember, if you do want to talk to someone about diabetes, whether it’s just for tips on managing hypos, help on managing a new diagnosis, or support with managing the condition after a number of years, you can get in touch and talk confidentially.  Look for @AndyPeerSupport on Twitter, e-mail or search “Diabetes Peer Support Sheffield” on Facebook.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Help Yourself

Part of being supported is knowing how to help yourself sometimes.  As we all know, diabetes is a largely self managed condition, where I'd wager most of us get to spend maybe an hour or two with a professional over the course of an entire year.

How do we make sure we get the best out of that fleeting time we spend with Healthcare Professionals (HCPs)?

I think there's a couple of simple things we can all do to make those appointments more productive.

Firstly, in the days or weeks leading up to them, write down a list of questions you want to ask or make a note of anything that's been troubling you about your diabetes.  Remember that this doesn't have to be limited to just high or low blood glucose levels.  Diabetes is as much about psychological and emotional support as it is physical or medical help.

You can read a good blog about asking for help on Ninjabetic's blog.  

The second thing we can all do is demand the care we are entitled to.  The National Diabetes Audit published last week gave some startling revelations about the standard of care for people with diabetes, particularly highlighting the lower standard of care given to adults under 40.

Whilst the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends 9 key care processes everyone with diabetes should be given, Diabetes UK goes further, covering 15 things.  You can find that list on the DUK website.

Make sure you know what you want to talk to your HCP about and don't be afraid to demand that standard of care you should be receiving.  It's not always easy but it will definitely help you in both the long and short term.

As always, if you want to talk to someone about diabetes, whether something's worrying you or you just want some advice, you can contact us through the blog, via Twitter (@AndyPeerSupport) or by e-mailing  Everything remains completely confidential.