2018 Diabetes UK Professional Conference

Reflections on an inspiring conference.

by Dr Christel Hendrieckx


London in March. You would expect Spring, right? Wrong. Winter had returned (or perhaps it had never left) – snow and a freezing cold wind was waiting to greet us. But this ‘cool welcome’ was compensated by an excellent program.

The Diabetes UK conference was held over 3 days (14-16 March) at London’s Excel Centre, and was attended by 3,000 delegates. The program featured eight parallel tracks and covered all disciplines from primary care to specialist care, as well as basic science, education, clinical and psychological care. Thanks to the psychology stream that Dr Debbie Cooke had put together with the program organising committee, there was always a session with a psychological focus to attend.

On the first morning, there was a very practical symposium: “Weaving psychological principals into routine care”, in which I was delighted to be an invited speaker. My session featured resources for health professionals to facilitate the conversation about emotions related to diabetes. The next speakers (Dr Jen Nash, Lisa Newson, and Prof Cathy Lloyd) discussed an online platform for people with diabetes to assist in taking care of their emotional well-being, and the importance of language in diabetes. In the afternoon, the “Let’s talk about sex” symposium attracted much attention and I heard very positive comments about it.

Probably the highlight, for me, was on the second day with a symposium dedicated to the “Psychological perspectives of hypoglycaemia”. Prof Linda Gonder-Frederick walked us through her 30 years of research into fear of hypoglycaemia. Standing in for Prof Jane Speight, I presented on changing our messages so that severe hypoglycaemia is not seen as a “necessary evil” in the quest to avoid hyperglycaemia and long-term complications. Lastly, Dr Nicole de Zoysa shared findings from the HARPdoc study about up-skilling health professionals in supporting people with diabetes and impaired hypoglycaemia awareness. These presentations were followed by a lively discussion, chaired by Dr Debbie Cooke and Prof Simon Heller. And finally, on the Thursday, a workshop about language in diabetes, which was very well attended, even at the late hour of the day. The use of language is clearly high on the agenda in the UK, and it was mentioned that a working group will soon be publishing a position paper about this. On the first and the second day, there were also several poster presentations with a psychological focus.

As is often the case at conferences, I had good intentions to attend many sessions, but meetings and networking are important too, and often took priority.  Other highlights included: the Arnold Bloom Lecture, delivered by Dr Bob Young who discussed the National Diabetes Inpatient Audit (NaDIA), highlighting that measurement has the power to help us to improve care for people with diabetes; a presentation of the findings of the multidisciplinary Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiRECT); and the Banting Memorial Lecture, delivered by Prof Andrew Hattersley, focused on the importance of precise diagnosis of diabetes subtypes for ensuring appropriate treatment.

By the time the Diabetes UK conference was coming to an end, the Excel Centre was filled with the joy, excitement and laughter of the (very) young participants of the ‘Move It Dance Performance’, which I understand is the biggest dance festival in the UK. The contrast in audience could not have been bigger.  On the last day, we could hear the pumping music in the background during the presentations. Clearly, this young generation is taking exercise seriously. It was time for us to move on…