'Significant gap' as Limerick and Mid-West lacks specialist dietitian for adult diabetics

'Significant gap' as Limerick and Mid-West lacks specialist dietitian for adult diabetics

Fintan Walshfintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

THE UL Hospitals Group has said that the lack of a specialist dietitian for adults Type 1 diabetes has been identified as a “significant gap” in its service. 

This comes after Diabetes Ireland, the national charity for people with diabetes, said that the hospital group had “failed over 1,900 of their patients by not taking action”. 

The charity said that this has resulted in “their failure to meet the clinical needs of some of their patients who must attend other hospitals and attempt to get care” in any of its hospitals in the Mid-West region. 

However, it is understood that the UL Hospitals Group had sought funding from the HSE for a specialist dietitian for adult diabetic patients, but was unsuccessful. 

According to the National Survey of Diabetes Care Delivery in 2018, the UL Hospitals Group requires 5.5 whole time equivalents (WTE) to meet the needs of diabetic patients. A spokesperson confirmed that there are no specialist dietitians for those with Type 1 diabetes. 

If the group wants to recruit a specialist dietitian, it must first get funding approval from the HSE. 

“Approval will be required nationally before we can progress recruitment for this post. UL Hospitals Group has identified this as a significant gap in our service and we are committed to addressing this,” a spokesperson told the Leader. 

The Leader can confirm that a funding bid has been submitted to the HSE for the post. 

The spokesperson said that the staffing deficits raised by the charity are “acknowledged  and addressing these deficits remains a priority”. 

According to the same HSE survey, the UL Hospitals Group needs 4.16 WTEs for consultant endocrinologists. At present, there is only one in the group for adult diabetic patients. 

A second consultant position is currently being advertised, which will reduce the deficit in this area from 72% to 48%. 

“Our services are also supported by a dedicated team of clinical nurse specialists in diabetes. In addition there are three podiatrists working in diabetic foot care.”

For paediatric diabetic patients, there are two consultants and a specialist dietician. 

The lack of a specialist dietitian is one of the main reasons why the group does not start patients on insulin pumps, which was one of the issues raised by Diabetes Ireland. 

“ We do, however, accept patients established on pumps from elsewhere and these patients are managed under the care of the consultant endocrinologist. The largest group of these patients are those who have transferred from the paediatric diabetes service in UHL. All of our insulin pump patients are seen in UHL.”

Across the group, there are 17.7 WTE dietitians, who see 200 new patients per month.