The height of the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the ability of health care professionals in the UK to provide routine diabetes care, according to a study in Primary Care Diabetes.
Researchers used an online survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health care professionals involved in diabetes care and the delivery of primary care diabetes services in addition to sociodemographic factors.
The survey was developed by the Primary Care Diabetes Society research group and was administered to doctors, pharmacists, nurses/nurse practitioners, dieticians, health care assistants, and paramedics from January 2021 to May 2021.
Of the 1070 health care professionals who were surveyed, 975 (91.1%) completed the questionnaire. A majority of responders were nurses or nurse practitioners (59.7%), followed by doctors (32.9%). The respondents were mean aged 52-53 years, 79% were women, and 72.7% were White.
Among the survey responders, 72.4% reported not having an illness typical of COVID-19 during the pandemic, and about 10% in each group reported testing positive or negative to an illness typical of COVID-19.
Some 41.4% of respondents reported felt they were overloaded by work “quite often,” and 29.8% reported feeling this way “very often.” About 79.1% of participants reported feeling “emotionally drained” at the end of a working day, slightly or significantly more frequently than before the pandemic.
The most common methods used to provide diabetes care during the pandemic were telephone (92.0%) and face-to-face consultation (80.2%). Video consultations were used by 35.0% of survey respondents.
About 79.1% of respondents reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had a moderate to significant effect on their practice’s ability to provide routine diabetes care, and 8.6% reported that the impact was “very significant”.
Additionally, 70.6% of those surveyed reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had a moderate to significant effect on their practice’s ability to provide routine National Health Service (NHS) health checks or screening for T2D. Some 48.3% of respondents reported they encountered mental health concerns in patients with diabetes slightly more frequently than before the pandemic, while 30% reported they encountered mental health concerns significantly more frequently.
Doctors had an increased odds of being substantially overworked or emotionally drained vs other health care professionals, excluding nurses (odds ratio [OR], 2.52; 95% CI, 1.25-5.07; P = .01).
After adjustment for age, sex, professional role, and ethnicity, being worried about infecting a family member with COVID-19 increased the odds of health care workers reporting being substantially overworked or emotionally drained (OR, 2.05; 95% CI, 1.24-3.39; P = .005).
Study limitations include the survey design, relatively small sample size, and the possibility that the findings may not be representative of all primary care diabetes professionals in the UK.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the ability of health care professionals and their practices to deliver routine diabetes care in the UK,” concluded the study authors. “Failure to restore primary care provision urgently and safely to at least pre-pandemic levels in a sustainable manner can adversely impact patients’ physical and mental health and place additional burden on the already overburdened health care system.”
Seidua S, Hambling C, Holmes P, et al. The impact of the COVID pandemic on primary care diabetes services in the UK: a cross-sectional national survey of views of health professionals delivering diabetes care. Prim Care Diabetes. Published online January 12, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.pcd.2021.12.015