Diabetes Question Time

By | 16 March, 2011
The Scottish parliament building. The meeting wasn't here.

The Scottish parliament building. The meeting wasn’t here.

Last night I popped along to “Diabetes Question Time”, organised by Diabetes UK and briefly plugged on the blog the other day. The purpose of the event was to give the pancreatically challenged hoard the opportunity to quiz Scottish MSPs from all major parties about diabetes health care and policy.

If this sounds incredibly boring to you, then I can safely report that it wasn’t. Questions covered off controversial issues such as pump funding, test strip availability for Type Twos, psychological support for children with diabetes and so on. All good, wholesome and highly absorbing stuff.

Present were MSPs Ross Finnie of the Liberal Democrats, Nanette Milne from the Scottish Conservatives, Patrick Harvie from the Scottish Green Party, Richard Simpson from the Scottish Labour Party and Shona Robison from the Scottish National Party.

To be blunt, none of them impressed me with their proposals (such as they were), with Ross Finnie (who does actually have type one) and Richard Simpson being the best of a bad lot. At least they did have some reasonable understanding of the issues under discussion and made some good points from time to time.

Patrick Harvie of the Green Party scored major idiot points by somehow bringing diabetes care around to transport policy (his point was that if we were less reliant on cars, then more people would exercise, and we would have fewer diabetics. See, I told you, an idiot), so the less said about him the better. Nanette Milne didn’t say much, but at least had the honesty to say the argument about test strip provision was too technical for her and therefore she didn’t really have a view. Honest, maybe, but I wouldn’t want her as health minister.

Shona Robison – currently Scottish Minister for Public Health and Sport – was so feeble and gutless I couldn’t even bring myself to hate her. When criticised about specifics her defence tended to be that she didn’t know about it and would “look into it”. I was entirely unconvinced about anything she said in relation to health care.

The main observation I made was that the audience was infinitely better informed about health care in Scotland than anyone sitting on the panel. There were some great questions and great counter arguments raised and Diabetes UK specifically scored major points by pointing out that they intended to honour their Diabetes Manifesto – unlike most politician’s with their manifestos – and would be there to support diabetics for their lifetime, not just for a five year term of office like those on the panel. Yeah, you tell ’em DUK!

So, anyway, the politicians hedged and fudging and I was entirely unconvinced by any of them. However, a thoroughly entertaining time was had by all and I would highly recommend going along to events like these if you have the slightest interest in the state of diabetes healthcare.

Category: events politics Tags: ,

About Tim

Diagnosed with Type One when he was 28, Tim founded Shoot Up in 2009. For the diabetes geeks, he wears a Medtronic 640G insulin pump filled with Humalog and uses Abbott's Libre flash glucose monitor.

14 thoughts on “Diabetes Question Time

  1. Caroline

    Sounds brilliant! Wish I’d been able to come. I sometimes find Question time too infuriating as there are so many issues I disagree with them on and end up having to switch the telly off through sheer frustration. But I think I could have gone into battle over this subject! Thanks for the write up Tim.

  2. Alison

    Sounds like a fun night and I love your analysis of it. I’m not convinced it matters whether the politicians understood the finer points of the argument. The important thing is they got the message that diabetic voters won’t stand by and accept poor services, therefore they need to keep diabetes near the top of their priority list. The finer points can be battled out by people who actually understand them, so long as the minister accepts diabetes is a priority.

  3. Tim Post author

    Ah, you would have loved it Caroline! @carrie87 and @aileen were also there, so you definately missed out!

  4. Tim Post author

    @alison – I wasn’t expecting politicians to have an utterly-in depth knowledge of diabetes care (any more than I would expect them to have detailed knowledge of epilepsy, sickle cell anemia or asthma for example). But what I did perhaps expect was a greater understanding of chronic conditions in general and how funding can have very long terms effects – both good and bad. This seemed to be lacking and they were all alarmingly short-termist.

  5. Alison

    @Tim I agree. There’s a huge piece of work that needs doing around the health economics of diabetes – what the payback is on investing in certain treatments, the long term cost of poor care etc. That’s the data we need to drive the PCT’s/politicians to justify spending now to save later and we don’t really have it at the mo.

  6. Tim Post author

    @Alison – ‘zactly! This was exactly the point made by the audience – saving money by scrimping on basic diabetes care now is insane, compared to the long term costs of crappy care.

  7. Alison

    Yep, but without the stats we’re dead in the water. We need someone like DUK to take the lead and produce the data that proves the long term approach is a worthwhile investment (assuming it is, if the numbers don’t add up we’ll just keep quiet on that one like drug companies do with research that doesn’t show the results they want!). Otherwise we’re evangalising an approach that seems sensible, but is lacking hard evidence to back it up.

  8. Donald Thomson

    No matter how expert somebody claims to be, if they’re not living with diabetes on a day to day basis they can’t really appreciate our needs.

    Reminds me of when my wife was talking to somebody from the British Diabetic Association (that’s how long ago it was) who point blank told her that hypos can’t cause fits. Well, I’ve had two which were so severe I’ve ended up with two replacement shoulder joints . . .

    Surely investing in proper care and education for diabetics to enable us to treat our condition as effectively as possible and prevent long term side effects is cheaper than treating us for those side effects when we eventually develop them?

  9. aileen

    Impressive run down on the night Tim. Great seeing you and Carrie again, just wish there was more time to chat. There never seems to be enough!

    I agree with Alison, and I was more impressed with Nanette than you, I give her a thumbs up for saying the T2 test strip debate is over her head. She did say her party would tell the Heath Boards they have to prescribe more pumps and said they would give a minimum level they must meet. Richard Simpson had his moments but kind of spoilt things with his thoughts on only prescribing Roche pumps for savings! He said Labour would commit to a minimum 5% across the boards. Green, was a waste of space and if I could of asked one question I think I would ask Patrick to tell me what Type 1 diabetes is!? I doubt he has any idea and would of been sensible to research a little before taking part in a Diabetes Question Time!

    There was a good proportion of Type 1’s in attendance, which was great. It shows we do care about our health care and although we never got any great answers we showed solidarity. Shame there wasn’t time for more questions though : (

  10. Tim Post author

    @aileen – now, I’m not sure that anyone *did* commit to a 5% target. I was listening very closely and it was all phrases like “we’re commited to considering a 5% target”, etc., not actually saying they would do go for a 5% target. But I could be wrong – it does happen from time to time 😉

    That said a 5% pump target is bloody feeble anyway, when Europe has 15% of type ones on pumps.

  11. aileen

    Totally agree!!! Hmm, you are more likely to be right than me! I bet he used clever phrasing and I was gullible. 5% is better than 0.9% we have now in GGC, but still no where near good enough. Have you seen that stats on Slovenia? 63% of their kids on pumps!!

  12. Tim Post author

    Well this seems to have come about from the meeting:

    “Health Minister Shona Robison has promised to look into setting a minimum standard for a treatment that can transform the lives of patients with diabetes if the SNP is re-elected.

    Responding to patient concerns about the lack of insulin pumps available on the NHS, Robison admitted more needed to be done to end the postcode lottery of pumps, which can lower the risk of complications in patients with type one diabetes.”


  13. aileen

    Thanks Tim. Sounds like that journalist was at the event. Did you hear Shona propose a minimum standard? That sounds more like Nanette to me?

  14. Alison

    Following on from my earlier comments, I’ve just emailed the CEO of Diabetes UK to suggest they look at producing a business case for diabetes – so that we can be clear about the financial benefits of investing in good diabetes care.


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