Research breakthrough for diabetes patients

Posted on 15 June 2012
By changing the culture of blood testing for diabetes patients, we can both improve their treatment and give them a better patient experience.

Diabetes sufferers around the world could get better care after research carried out in North Staffordshire. A study, funded by The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in partnership with the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) for the Department of Health, at University Hospital of North Staffordshire and Keele University found over half of key blood test requests from doctors for diabetes patients were inappropriate. The research, which involved over 115,000 patients from North Staffordshire, could now be used to train doctors in better use of blood tests.

Professor Tony Fryer, Professor of Clinical Biochemistry, said: “We found that around 20% of blood tests were taken too soon. This can cause unnecessary anxiety, discomfort and inconvenience to patients, as well as a waste of scarce NHS resources. We also found that 30% of blood tests were taken too late, potentially leading to an increased risk of complications. This means that more than half of all requests for key blood tests in patients with diabetes are inappropriate.

“By changing the culture of blood testing for diabetes patients, we can both improve their treatment and give them a better patient experience. It’s fantastic that research here in North Staffordshire is making a difference worldwide. Clinicians and researchers in the United States have already seized hold of the findings and are looking to see how they can improve their testing. Hopefully clinicians in many more countries will soon be using these findings from University Hospital of North Staffordshire and Keele University.”

The study indicates that guidance on monitoring patients with diabetes is not being followed in the majority of GPs and hospital doctors.

Dr Owen Driskell, NIHR/CSO Healthcare Science Research Fellow, said: “We brought together patients, scientists, doctors and statisticians to try and understand how we could improve care for diabetes patients. We examined all the blood test requests from doctors treating patients with diabetes in North Staffordshire for 10 years, which meant looking at over half a million tests. The study showed that use of the blood tests varied widely from doctor to doctor.


Notes to editors

Professor Fryer is the supervisor of the NIHR Healthcare Scientist Fellowship to Dr Owen Driskell (Senior Clinical Biochemist) for the ‘INvestigating ThE Root Causes of Excessive Replicate pathology Testing (INTERCEPT)’ study.  The team also comprises: Mr David Holland, Operations Lead at the National Pathology Benchmarking Service, Dr Fahmy Hanna, Consultant Diabetologist, Professor Peter Jones, Professor of Statistics, Mr John Pemberton, Expert Patient (Diabetes UK) and Mr Martin Tran, Biomedical Scientist.

The abstract of the publication in the US journal Clinical Chemistry, the top international journal for Clinical Biochemistry, can be found at Indeed, the journal were so interested in the work that they asked us to summarise it in a short slide presentation as part of their Journal Club programme as a teaching tool (see The interview with Professor Fryer for one of their podcasts which are broadcast on The Health Show in the US is not out yet, but will be available shortly at the following link: .

This article/paper/report presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (