Fri, 02 Aug 2019
Ian Vince has turned his life - and his health - around thanks to the new diabetes groups being offered by his Thatcham GP's surgery
Last month saw the launch of a new service aimed at decreasing the number of people with Type 2 diabetes in Thatcham.
More than 60 patients went along to hear more about the new group sessions at Thatcham Health Centre, which will focus on supporting people to change their lifestyle and come off medication.
The surgery is at the forefront of this type of working in the UK and trials at other health centres have had hugely positive impacts on patients overall health and well-being.
Trials of the new group sessions have already seen two patients go into remission and the surgery hopes that many more will now follow suit.
Dr Lizzie Mottram is a GP at the surgery who has been instrumental in setting up the new way of working, along with the surgery’s psychotherapist.
“The evening went brilliantly and we had a good turnout,” Dr Mottram said. “Two fantastic patients stood up and told their story which was very powerful.
“It is very lonely and hard on your mental health if you have these chronic conditions and many patients are housebound so can’t always get to their routine appointments because of the huge effort it takes.
“We hope to arrange transport for those patients going forward because these sessions will really help make them less lonely and isolated.
“Around 50% of people who start on drugs for Type 2 diabetes end up on insulin. If you can get people to go down the change of lifestyle route they can go into remission.”
Local groups, including the bowls club, walking netball, walking football and West Berkshire Therapy Centre, were also present at the launch event to provide patients with more details about the sporting options open to them.
The surgery currently has around 900 patients with Type 2 diabetes and from September around half of the appointments will be in a group setting.
Each appointment will see small groups meeting for around two hours at a time, with a team of clinicians, nurses and facilitators. Family members and carers are also welcome to attend the sessions. One to one appointments will still be available for patients that are not suited to the group sessions.
“We hope that within three months someone will have had some changes and that will encourage others,” Dr Mottram added. “Seeing it happen to people around you is so much more empowering.
“Diabetes is a controllable condition and this is all about giving people a choice.
“We hope that the new service will be cost neutral to the surgery, but the benefits to patients will be huge.”
Dr Mottram applied for and received a GP Fellowship to set up the innovative project and this is helping to fund the creation of these sessions.
The structured appointments will take place every three to six months, with patients gaining valuable knowledge about how to make changes to their lifestyle as well as meeting with others who are going through similar experiences.
Dr Mottram has already started running similar sessions for those with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and is beginning to discuss options for outside asthma checks for young people too.
The UK has the worst mortality rate in Western Europe for asthma and Dr Mottram believes doctors now need to change the way they see patients to help combat these issues.
She is working with school nurses to take the asthma checks into schools, starting at Kennet School, and the Children’s Hub in Thatcham.
She will begin collecting data when the diabetic group sessions start in September and hopes to be able to evidence a real positive impact on patient health within the first two years.
Name: Ian Vince
Age: 71 years
Weight loss: 4 stone
At his heaviest Ian Vince weighed nearly 20 stone. He drank heavily and had been ignoring the fact that he probably had type 2 diabetes for about 12 months.
But things got serious when he began “virtually blacking out on the motorway” as he drove to and from his home in Thatcham and his work near Heathrow Airport.
He finally went to the doctor. And now, just six months on, he has regained feeling in his numb toes, his legs don’t swell up, and he’s not having asthma attacks regularly.
“I was massively overweight, drank too much and ate too much,” he recalls. “We had just moved to Thatcham from Feltham and we were living on take-aways as we didn’t have a cooker.
“I went to see the doctor and they took some bloods and then I was in the pub one day and she called and said I had to get in and see her now.
“My blood pressure was something awful and she said it would probably be a good idea if I lost some weight otherwise I was going to die.
“She suggested knocking carbs on the head and moderating the alcohol.”
That was just before Christmas 2018. Ian and wife Chris then headed to Goa on holiday and when he returned in the New Year he was determined it would mean a new him. So he cut out the carbs and reduced his alcohol intake.
“The weight just fell off,” he admits. “I have tried to get a lifestyle that I can live with.
“I was on all sorts of tablets and they have cut all those down now. Everything was hard work before but now I have so much energy. I feel as fit as anything.”
Part of the lifestyle change included buying an electric bike and now Ian cycles around 30 miles a day.
But the biggest obstacle he had to overcome was himself.
“For me the biggest thing was making my own mind up to do it,” he says. “I really think the group sessions will help people as it makes things a little bit competitive. You have just got to make your own mind up that it is what you want to do. There is no point playing at it.”
One of the most striking moments of Ian’s dramatic change was on a recent flight. “I didn’t usually eat on a plane because I couldn’t get the table down,” he admits. “This year I could put the table down and it was brilliant.
“I feel well and that’s what it’s all about. I got a little bit slobby really and I’m like myself again.
“It has really changed my life.”