Rural Queensland lagging in care for diabetic children

Queensland lags in paediatric diabetes care


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A new study has looked at diabetes services for children in rural Queensland.

A new study has looked at diabetes services for children in rural Queensland.

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Only 2 in 10 Queensland children were treated in line with a key quality standard.

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Children living with diabetes in rural Queensland are receiving poor levels of care, according to a new research paper authored by two senior medical professionals. 

The paper found only 21 per cent of Queensland children with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes were treated in line with a quality of care standard for the condition.

Professor Jerry Wales, the director of the diabetes department at Queensland's children's health service, co-wrote the paper with Dr Jason Yates, an endocrinologist at Townsville Hospital. 

The paper looked at children's diabetes services in rural Queensland as well as the quality of services in larger satellite centres.

Seven reviewers inspected 14 centres of care over an 18 month period, using standards adapted from the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. 

Levels of blood glucose and haemoglobin were measured in diabetic children visiting these centres and compared against an Australian target concentration of less than 7.5 per cent. 

Only 21 per cent of children met this target, with 30 per cent showing "unacceptably high" levels linked to health complications later in life. 

The study also noted concerns about staffing levels for diabetes treatment, particularly with regards to dietitians.

"There is a general lack of psychology and social work provision for paediatric diabetes across the state despite it being recognised in all national guidance as a vital component of care," the report noted. 

"The practice of frequent rotation of dietitians through the diabetes service for a short period prevents expertise and stability and should be discouraged. 

"A coherent stable team is the key to the improvement of care."

The study, which presented anonymised data, also recommended making the findings of future audits available.

"Nationally, the federal government should consider instituting de-anonymised universal diabetes audit in both the public and private systems and across all age ranges."

The study’s authors were particularly critical of the level of care provided to children in far north Queensland with type 2 diabetes, which is associated with lifestyle factors and is most common in adults. 

“The situation for paediatric patients with type 2 diabetes in the far north of the state requires urgent action,” they wrote. 

A Queensland health spokeswoman said the study had been governed by the Statewide Diabetes Clinical Network. 

“Following the review, a final report has received by the Statewide Diabetes Clinical Network and will provide the basis for its ongoing work,” the spokeswoman said.

“This includes the development of diabetes education resources, supported by regular telehealth team links.

“Queensland Health provides quality care for all patients, however we always strive to achieve continuous improvement.

“We received positive feedback from the participants of the review, as well as from the relevant stakeholders involved.”

The study, titled Peer Review of Rural and Tertiary Queensland Paediatric Diabetes Services, was published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.  

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