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Research pilot set to improve experiences of local people with diabetes

A pioneering research project is set to make a difference to the lives of people in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, following the launch of a partnership programme which will reflect on and improve the experience of people with diabetes in managing their condition.

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, in partnership with Healthwatch, Diabetes UK, Health Innovation East and the Clinical Research Network, has made a successful bid to NHS England for £100,000 for the programme, which will take learning from one place – initially Luton – and apply it to benefit the lives of patients and communities across the whole area.

Dr Sanhita Chakrabarti, deputy chief medical director at Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, and clinical lead for the Research Engagement Network, said:

“Evidence has long shown that people from diverse backgrounds are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes from a younger age.

“There are several significant risk factors for diabetes, some of which are genetic so it isn’t possible to reduce them.  Type 2 diabetes is serious and its symptoms can go undetected for up to 10 years.  That’s why reducing the incidence of diabetes in all our communities is one of our top priorities for health improvement.”

Lucy Nicholson, chief executive officer of Healthwatch Luton, said:

“I’m delighted that we are able to be a partner in this project, to understand the barriers to research.  Healthwatch Luton have worked with community groups to recruit the Diabetes Research Champions who represent the population of Luton, and will be involved alongside Health Innovation East to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme pilot and its suitability for wider rollout.

“We have appointed six community champions, who will take this work into their neighborhoods to support understanding of diabetes and the importance of research, whilst helping us to recognize the barriers to participation in research.

“We have enjoyed supporting the community champions through their training by Diabetes UK and the Clinical Research Network, and we have co-produced a resource pack for them to use.”

Emma Brown, head of innovation at Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, said:

“The pilot with Healthwatch Luton is only the first part of this jigsaw.  We are determined to ensure we act on the learning from this project and there are long term benefits to our residents.  We are aiming to increase diabetes research activity in Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes.

“By supporting people from diverse communities in BLMK to take part in research, we will be ensuring future treatments reflect their needs in order to live longer, healthier lives.  We’re also working with Healthwatch organisations in Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes and hope to expand this project to these areas.

“This project is a true example of partnership working, with the community champions at the centre.  We are excited about the future and what we can achieve together.”

The project will run for until the end of March 2024 and will complete an evaluation report by the end of April 2024.


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