Lancashire and South Cumbria residents set to access diabetes prevention services through the touch of a button

NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK have teamed up with leading providers from the tech sector as the battle against Type 2 diabetes goes digital – with around 5,000 people expected to benefit from the launch of a new pilot project, including some from here in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Lancashire and South Cumbria is one of eight pilot areas that has been selected to test drive a range of innovative digital products, apps, gadgets and other online tools, starting this month.

Heathier You: The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme was officially launched last year to support people who are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Those referred on to the face-to-face programme get tailored, personalised help, this includes; education on lifestyle choices, advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating and bespoke physical activity programmes, which together have been proven to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The new pilot offers similar support, assistance and guidance but through the use of digital interventions, including apps, which allow users to access health coaches, online peer support groups and to set and monitor goals electronically. Some patients will also receive wearable technology to help them monitor activity levels and receive motivational messages and prompts.

People accessing the new pilot service in Lancashire and South Cumbria will use an app to complete an online self-assessment before receiving a call from a health advisor to develop a tailored action plan. They can then access to their own personal lifestyle log via the app and monitor their progress as a result of lifestyle changes. They will also have access to supporting resources via the app, as well as the ability to contact health advisors directly.

Throughout the nine-month programme, as well as having access to the app, people will also receive a number of phone calls from a health advisor to support them. It is anticipated around 250 people in Lancashire and South Cumbria will take part in the pilot.

Dr Amanda Thornton, digital health clinical lead for Lancashire and South Cumbria, said: “There is emerging research demonstrating remote or virtual delivery of lifestyle change conversations can be as effective as face-to-face with your GP or other healthcare provider.

“This national pilot project aims to rigorously test digital as an alternative to clinic based diabetes programmes with a view to making this option available to all.

“It will help us to clearly understand the added value of phone apps, wearable technology or online services for people wanting to make positive changes to their health. With today’s busy lifestyles many of us bank or shop online, this programme will take us a step further in understanding how to also help people manage their health online.”

Mike Maguire, chief officer at NHS West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “This is an exciting time for Lancashire and South Cumbria and a clear example of health and social care partners coming together, to embrace technology to help tackle a growing health crisis that affects so many people in this country.

“In West Lancashire, we’ll be following this pilot with great interest in the hope that it will transform the lives of those people living with diabetes.”

Paul Watson, vice president for healthcare, Hitachi Consulting EMEA, said: “Type-2 diabetes is a global societal issue, affecting millions of people and presenting major challenges for healthcare systems, including the NHS.

“Empowering people at risk through digitally-enabled and personalised support to help them make sustainable lifestyle changes is critical to addressing this problem. Combining digital innovation with established clinical practice enables us to re-imagine the delivery of care, providing increased access to services, whilst also maintaining quality and cost-effectiveness.

“Hitachi is extremely proud to be supporting the national pilot through with our Smart Digital Diabetes Prevention solution, which was co-created with Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and the Salford Care Call team.”

Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, said “So much else in our lives is now about online social connection and support, and that now needs to be true too for the modern NHS.

“This new programme is the latest example of how the NHS is now getting practical and getting serious about new ways of supporting people stay healthy.”

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for obesity and diabetes, said: “Tackling obesity and the rising prevalence of Type 2 diabetes are the major public health challenges of our time. By April next year we will be providing the diabetes prevention programme to the whole of England – an evidence-based face-to-face programme that prevents or delays onset of Type 2 diabetes in those at high risk. Through this initiative, we have the potential to establish the effectiveness of digital interventions to do the same, so that the reach of the programme will be even greater.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said: “This breaks new ground to help those at risk of Type 2 diabetes quite literally take their health into their own hands. Many of us use on-the-go digital technology every day and this is a logical next step in diabetes prevention.”

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