New Diabetes Remission Pilot Launched For Type 2 Diabetes Patients

11th June 2021

A Diabetes Remission pilot programme, the first in Northern Ireland, has been launched in the South Eastern Trust area.  The programme is based on ground-breaking research that demonstrated that patients with Type 2 Diabetes were able to place their disease into remission when following a twelve month lifestyle modification programme, which included three months of total diet replacement.

The Remission Pilot Programme follows three phases.   Phase one is a diet composed solely of nutritionally complete total diet replacement products, with a total energy intake of up to 880 calories a day, for up to 12 weeks.  The second phase is a period of food reintroduction for six weeks and the third phase provides subsequent weight maintenance support for 34 weeks with a total programme duration of 12 months.

Interested participants are assessed using the inclusion criteria and provided with information on the Remission Pilot Programme by their GP, Consultant or Practice Nurse. If the patient meets the criteria, they will be referred to the Diabetes Centre at the Ulster Hospital for an initial assessment and medicine review.  If the patient is considered suitable they will enter the next group programme.

The 50 patients will be spilt into four/five groups of participants and partners/carers will attend all group sessions via ZOOM. There will be 20 ZOOM sessions over the 12 month period with a greater intensity of sessions at the start of the programme. Participants will receive a participant pack, total diet replacement products, blood glucose monitor, blood pressure monitor & scales.

The Diabetes Remission Pilot will be targeted at those who are overweight (BMI ≥ 27kg/m² (adjusted to 25kg/m² in people of South Asian and Chinese origin)) and recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (within 6 years of diagnosis). In addition to the 12 weeks of total diet replacement (soups and shakes), the pilot programme will support participants to achieve a healthier body weight with behavioural interventions and longer term dietary advice.

Commenting on the benefits of the programme, Health Minister Robin Swann stated:  “Through developing the Diabetes Strategy and the Diabetes Network, my Department has encouraged the development of innovative practice in our approach to preventing and treating Type 2 Diabetes and this pilot is an opportunity to test new approaches on a pilot basis in line with emerging evidence. I would like to wish the 50 patients who are part of this pilot all the best as they commence this pilot programme”.

Karen Boyle, Programme Participant added “I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes six months ago and at the first diabetic clinic with my GP, I was offered the opportunity to take part in the programme as I met the criteria.  I was shocked at being given the diagnosis of having Type 2 Diabetes, so I grasped the opportunity with both hands to participate in the programme.  I am now three weeks into the programme and have lost over 7kg in weight and my bloods and blood pressure are now normal which is unbelievable.  My hope is at the end of the programme I will have reversed my Diabetes and continue to stay healthy”.

Roy Harper, Consultant Endocrinologist at the Ulster Hospital, said, “It is very exciting to be able to offer our patients living with Type 2 Diabetes access to the Diabetes Remission Programme.  We are creating a safe environment where Diabetes patients can lose a significant amount of weight thereby reversing their Type 2 Diabetes.  Our approach is based on the DIRECT study which showed very good results and we hope that our patients will do even better with many getting their Type 2 Diabetes into remission”.

National Director for Diabetes UK, Tina McCrossan, added “The South Eastern Trust’s Remission Pilot, based on the ground-breaking DiRECT study funded by Diabetes UK, is a really exciting opportunity for people taking part.  We know that structured, low calorie weight management programmes can result in the remission of Type 2 Diabetes in some cases but, importantly, there are other health benefits including overall quality of life and psychological wellbeing. We look forward to seeing more results from this pilot and hearing how it has impacted the lives of those taking part.”

The treatment of Type 2 Diabetes alone costs the NHS around £10 billion per year across the UK (around 10% of its total budget). The number of people being diagnosed with the disease continues to rise (at c.5% per annum).  Type 2 Diabetes is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease and kidney disease.