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A consultant who specialises in the treatment of diabetes has been selected as a Diabetes UK Clinical Champion, to help transform care for people living with diabetes in the Sheffield area.

Dr Soon Song, a consultant diabetologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was chosen for his passion for, and commitment to excellence in diabetes care.

He is one of 20 UK healthcare professionals, including consultants, nurses, GPs, dietitians, podiatrists, pharmacists and psychologists to be appointed to the award-winning Clinical Champions leadership development programme this year.

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. There are over 31,000 people living with diabetes in Sheffield. If not managed well, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious complications such as sight loss, amputation, kidney failure and stroke.

Through his training, he will identify areas in need of further improvement and drive vital changes to the diabetes services that young people with type 2 diabetes and women trying for a baby with type 2 diabetes in Sheffield can access to improve outcomes.

A key element of his work will be the development of a clinical care pathway for young women with type 2 diabetes which will look to map out a best practice care journey so that their specific pre-pregnancy care needs can be met by GPs, practice nurses and community pharmacists, and ensure practice nurses, community pharmacists and GPs receive additional training to deliver pre-pregnancy care.

This will include the use of pop-up messages in internal healthcare systems enabling practice nurses to trigger pre-conception advice for women with diabetes who a planning a pregnancy and involving diabetes specialists team in their care.

Dr Song said: I'm delighted to have been appointed as a Diabetes UK Clinical Champion and I look forward to improving the pre-conception care for women with diabetes and also to raise awareness on the increasingly prevalent young Type 2 diabetes. This role will help me to engage and empower healthcare professionals in the community with the confidence, skills and knowledge to deliver high quality care to these young patients.

“As well as raising awareness of the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in women of a childbearing age, I’ll be looking to ensure a dedicated session about preconception care is included in the national diabetes management programme, DESMOND, and pilot a new care pathway in areas where there are a high number of women with type 2 diabetes of childbearing age. Type 2 diabetes is no longer just an old person’s disease, so I’m proud to be championing the importance of effective preconception care for women with diabetes in the Northern and Yorkshire region.”

Dr Song has worked as a consultant diabetologist since 2004 and has been instrumental in establishing a number of cutting-edge services for those with diabetes in Sheffield. This includes an antenatal service which has increased the uptake of postnatal checking of blood glucose in women with gestational diabetes in the community, an insulin pump service for patients with type 1 diabetes and a service to help better control blood sugar levels in those admitted to hospital with kidney failure.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in younger women, particularly those from ethnic minority groups, is increasing, with a national diabetes in pregnancy audit showing that only 50% of women with diabetes took the right amount of folic acid before conception. 70% also had higher than expected blood glucose levels over a period of time – increasing the risk of complications from diabetes for both the mother and the baby.

Clare Howarth, Head of the North of England at Diabetes UK said: “Clinical champions like Dr Song play a critical role in improving the treatment and support people with diabetes receive so that they can lead long and healthy lives.”

The award-winning Clinical Champions programme is supported by Diabetes UK and provides leadership development to healthcare professionals, enabling them to improve diabetes care and bring innovative solutions to local problems. There are now 105 champions across the UK who have access to a network of like-minded clinicians with whom they can share expertise, experience and best practice.