‘No excuse’ for dangerous blunders in diabetic hospital treatment

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Almost one in three diabetics are victims of medication errors in hospital that can cause dangerous blood glucose levels, a report finds today.

Hospitals in England and Wales made at least one mistake per inpatient in the treatment of 3,700 diabetes sufferers in one week.

During the period, affected patients succumbed to more than double the number of severe hypoglycaemic, or “hypo”, episodes, according to the National Diabetes Inpatient Audit.

In addition, 68 patients suffered consistently high blood glucose levels during their stay in hospital, known as diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be fatal if not treated. This suggests that insulin treatment was not administered for a significant period of time.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “The fact that there are so many mistakes and that for some people a stay in hospital means they get worse should simply not be happening.

“Poor blood glucose management, caused by errors in hospital treatment, is leading to severe and dangerous consequences for too many people. Urgent action is needed to make sure that general ward staff are competent and confident about treating inpatients with diabetes.”

Audit lead clinician Dr Gerry Rayman said the majority of hospital doctors and nurses did not have basic training in insulin management and glucose control.

“Training needs to be mandatory to improve diabetes control and reduce the frequency of severe hypoglycaemia,” he said.

“It is also needed to prevent diabetic ketosis occurring in hospital, for which there can be no excuse. Its occurrence is negligent and should never happen.”