In sickness and in health

John Hayes with Gemma Robinson outside the Houses of Parliament ANL-140317-123721001
John Hayes with Gemma Robinson outside the Houses of Parliament ANL-140317-123721001
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MP John Hayes writes for the Lincolnshire Free Press

Each of our lives is touched by illness at some time or another. When sickness strikes how we cope depends, partly, on the advice, care and support we get. Expecting the unexpected is an oxymoron, but it’s the duty of Government to anticipate, prepare for and respond to all kinds of national needs.

Responding to the needs of an estimated 3.8 million diabetes sufferers in the UK is both about treatment following diagnosis and raising awareness. Everyone has heard of diabetes, but too many, sadly, suffer from the misconception that it’s not particularly serious.

Most people know that diabetes causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. Type 2 diabetes is familiar – it tends to affect those over 40 and, though not to be taken lightly, can usually be controlled by monitoring blood glucose, adopting a healthy diet, regular exercise and medication. Nevertheless it is a particular risk to the elderly because symptoms can be harder to spot with age.

Whereas type 2 diabetes means the body doesn’t make enough insulin, with type 1 the body cannot produce insulin at all.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition; no one knows what causes it, there is no prevention and, at present, no cure. It typically presents in teenagers and young adults, but – worryingly – is increasingly prevalent in children – particularly under-fives amongst whom the incidence is rising by five per cent each year.

These young children rely on multiple insulin injections or pump infusions every day just to stay well.

It affects every aspect of their lives, at home and at school, with huge implications for their families too.

Diabetes charities such as JDRF, which recently came to Parliament, and the International Diabetes Foundation who I am meeting soon, say that early recognition of the symptoms is vital.

Taking up their cause with the health secretary, I am asking what more can be done to help early diagnosis. But for young children what happens at schools is very important, as teachers need the right information to help those affected, and parents want to be confident that necessary support is in place.

As well as highlighting these concerns with the secretary of state for education, I’ve told the chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust that as many health services as possible should be delivered locally.

As the nation’s health needs change over time, because conditions are mitigated by new treatments or cures developed, Government must respond by regularly reappraising priorities, ensuring research and investment is directed to the right areas.

Illness is never easy, but dealing with it shouldn’t be made a constant struggle.