Background Structured diabetes care can improve outcomes and reduce risk of complications, but improving care in a deprived, ethnically diverse area can prove challenging. This report evaluates a system change to enhance diabetes care delivery in a primary care setting.
Methods All 35 practices in one inner London Primary Care Trust were geographically grouped into eight networks of four to five practices, each supported by a network manager, clerical staff and an educational budget. A multidisciplinary team developed a ‘care package’ for type 2 diabetes management, with financial incentives based on network achievement of targets. Monthly electronic performance dashboards enabled networks to track and improve performance. Network multidisciplinary team meetings including the diabetic specialist team supported case management and education. Key measures for improvement included the number of diabetes care plans completed, proportion of patients attending for digital retinal screen and proportions of patients achieving a number of biomedical indices (blood pressure, cholesterol, glycated haemoglobin).
Results Between 2009 and 2012, completed care plans rose from 10% to 88%. The proportion of patients attending for digital retinal screen rose from 72% to 82.8%. The proportion of patients achieving a combination of blood pressure ≤140/80 mm Hg and cholesterol ≤4 mmol/L rose from 35.3% to 46.1%. Mean glycated haemoglobin dropped from 7.80% to 7.66% (62–60 mmol/mol).
Conclusions Investment of financial, organisational and education resources into primary care practice networks can achieve clinically important improvements in diabetes care in deprived, ethnically diverse communities. This success is predicated on collaborative working between practices, purposively designed high-quality information on network performance and engagement between primary and secondary care clinicians.
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