Prevalence of hypoglycaemic episodes declines in hospitals, according to diabetes inpatient audit

Published: 08 Mar 2018

The prevalence of all hypoglycaemic episodes in hospital, both mild and severe, has decreased from 26 per cent in 2011 to 20 per cent in 2016.

Mild hypoglycaemia has fallen by five percentage points, from 23 per cent in 2011 to 18 per cent in 2016.  Severe hypoglycaemia, which is more serious because it can cause loss of consciousness, has fallen from 11 per cent in 2011 to eight per cent in 2016.

The 2016 National Diabetes Inpatient Audit report (NaDIA), published today by NHS Digital, also shows that there has been an overall reduction in the prevalence of the most severe, life-threatening hypoglycaemia which requires injectable rescue treatment for inpatients with diabetes5. This has fallen from 2.2 per cent in 2011 to 1.7 per cent in 2016.

Read the full report here

Other findings in the report show:

  • A decrease in the proportion of inpatients on intravenous insulin infusions (IVII) (11 per cent in 2011 to 8 per cent in 2016) and a decrease in the proportion of patients receiving excessively long insulin infusions (8 per cent in 2011 to 6 per cent in 2016).
  • A reduction in the mismanagement of transfers from intravenous to injectable insulin, down from 19 per cent in 2011 to 14 per cent in 2016.
  • A reduction of 0.9 percentage points in the proportion of inpatients in England6  who develop a foot lesion during their hospital stay (2.2 per cent in 2010 to 1.3 per cent in 2016)

The NaDIA measures the quality of diabetes care provided to people who are admitted to hospital, and covers issues such as staffing levels, medication errors, patient harms and patient experience. There were 209 sites in England and Wales participating in the 2016 survey and data was submitted for 15,774 inpatients – 500 more than in 2015 (15,229).

The audit is carried out by NHS Digital, in collaboration with Diabetes UK7 and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit Programme.

Other findings in the 2016 NaDIA include:

Hospital stay:

  • One in six hospital beds (17 per cent) were occupied by a person with diabetes in 2016. This figure has risen each year since 2011, when it was 15 per cent
  • In 2016, 69 per cent of inpatients with diabetes were seen by a member of the diabetes team where appropriate9, up from 58 per cent in 2011
  • 28 per cent of hospitals don’t have specialist nurses to support inpatients with diabetes

Inpatient-onset hyperglycaemic emergency:

  •  Around one in 25 inpatients with Type 1 diabetes (four per cent) developed the life-threatening and preventable condition diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) during their hospital stay in 2016. There has been no significant change since 2011 when it was three per cent
  • In 2016, around one in 500 inpatients with Type 2 diabetes (0.2 per cent) developed hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state (HHS) during their hospital stay. This figure remains unchanged since 2015 when recording of this life-threatening and preventable condition began.

Medication Errors:

  • The proportion of inpatient drug charts that had at least one medication error has decreased only slightly from 40 per cent in 2011 to 38 per cent in 2016, continuing to affect almost two out of five inpatient drug chart
  • In 2016, inpatient drug charts were more likely to contain medication errors if the inpatient was treated on a surgical ward (41 per cent) compared to a medical ward (37 per cent)
  • Prescription errors were less likely to occur if inpatients were treated in a hospital that used an Electronic Patient Record (EPR) (19 per cent) compared to hospitals that did not use EPR (25 per cent)

Patient satisfaction:

  • In 2016, five out of six patients were satisfied or very satisfied with their diabetes care during their hospital stay (84 per cent), which has remained at a similar level since 2011
  • Inpatient satisfaction with meal choice has declined, from 64 per cent in 2011 to 54 per cent in 2016
  • Inpatient satisfaction with meal timing has also declined from 70 per cent in 2011 to 63 per cent in 2016

Audit lead clinician, Dr Gerry Rayman, said:

“The audit continues to play an important role in changing the standards of hospital care for patients with diabetes and driving forward changes that can save lives, improve inpatient experiences and save money for hospital trusts.

“We have seen a number of successes which include falls in the instances of hypoglycaemic episodes, unnecessary insulin infusions and hospital-acquired foot ulcers. These are, in part, due to the take up of new and more efficient ways of working. The number of hospital sites with care improvement initiatives such as Electronic Patient Records and Electronic Prescribing has increased since 2013, and diabetes Mortality and Morbidity meetings are now held in 53 per cent of sites.

“Each year, we have seen inpatient numbers increasing steadily and, today, around a third of inpatients in a few hospitals have diabetes. There has been little change in staffing levels to accommodate this rise and while overall satisfaction with care is high, the audit shows that there is more work to be done. The audit is stimulating people to ask questions about their hospital care which will also help to drive forward improvements.

“Improvements in medicine management, identifying those at risk, educating other health care professionals and implementing best practice will be a focus for specialist teams within hospitals who are committed to delivering an excellent service to patients with diabetes, despite the many demands upon them.”

“While we can celebrate the achievements of the NaDIA, we must continue to focus on reducing preventable and serious complications including severe hypoglycaemia hospital acquired foot ulceration, diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state.”