“I never dreamed that this would develop in my life”

Charlotte Abbott-Pierce with her artificial pancreas – NHS

A sensor inserted under the skin to measure blood sugar and then send the information to an insulin pump to adjust body levels sounds simple enough.

In reality, however, this could be a life-changing revelation for 400,000 people living with type 1 diabetes in the UK, where this new artificial pancreas technology was pioneered.

It’s the first country to test such devices, and it’s allowing some people to get through large parts of the day without worrying about their blood sugar levels. Among them are 6-year-old Charlotte from Lancashire – just one of 200 children now using this new system – and Yasmin Hopkins, 27, from London.

“Now I wake up and I can go about my normal day’s work or walk the dog without worrying.” Yasmin told the BBC. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 15 years ago and apart from being constantly disturbed during the day she has always been concerned.

To date, 875 people have received the artificial system developed by the NHS and their results will feed into an evaluation carried out by the NHS as part of a long-term study National Institute for Excellence in Health and Nursing about how and where to introduce more of these devices in the future.

But new research presented this week at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2022 found that flash monitoring not only helps improve blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes, it also has a positive impact on their quality of life.

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“Before I started using a flash glucose meter, I carried my blood glucose testing kit with me everywhere and had to test up to eight times a day,” said Olivia, 25, who was then diagnosed with Type 1-7. I pricked my finger and tested my blood sugar before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner and before bed. Before driving in the car and after two hours of driving – endless testing!”

“Growing up with diabetes, I never dreamed that a device like a flash glucose meter would be developed in my life – and when I first started using one, I couldn’t quite believe that something so small could have one had such a big impact.” She told the NHS. “It has helped me feel more confident and improved my mental well-being.”

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It’s not a fully automated system, as the amount of carbs eaten at meals has to be entered into a smartphone app to ensure insulin levels don’t get too high.

But Charlotte’s parents have said it has allowed her to return to something she loved but hasn’t been able to do in a while: being a kid again.

“She loves going out with her friends and sleepovers, but we had to stop that as soon as she was diagnosed because other people couldn’t manage her diabetes,” Ange Abbott, Charlotte’s mother, told the BBC.

“Now we can allow her to go out on those social occasions when we’re not there.”

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