Northlanders with diabetes and mental health issues will be the focus of a new programme which aims to improve the quality of life of those living with diabetes.

Northland District Health Board is one of two DHBs in the country which will carry out the pilot Diabetes Plan which will support patients who have both diabetes and mental health issues.

Ian Hartley-Dade, portfolio manager primary care for Northland DHB, said the DHB had identified three groups which would benefit from the programme: children and whanau of newly diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) and those children and their whanau who have poor diabetes control; young people between 16 and 20 with poorly controlled T1DM; and adults with poorly controlled diabetes also experiencing low to medium mental health issues.

Patients will be identified through their Diabetes Annual Review, through proactive recalls to their GPs, and through opportunistic conversations. Mr Hartley-Dade said those identified will have increased access to counsellors, psychologists and dietitians.


"The whole premise is that the support provided will be patient-centred, meeting their needs in a way which will achieve the best possible outcome for them and their whanau."

Mr Hartley-Dade said the DHB would be applying funding to pull together the right team for each patient. He said the pilot was being finalised by the DHB and would launch in the next couple of months.

He said sometimes patients with diabetes also suffered mental health issues.

"For some it can be feelings of guilt that they have somehow caused their condition or the impact it could have on their whanau. For others it can be about the impact the changes will have on their lifestyle."

He said those mental health issues could increase the risk of patients developing further diabetes-related complications.

"If a person is not feeling good about themselves, or doesn't have the resilience to cope well with their condition and its demands, it can result in poor diabetes control," he said.

Mr Hartley-Dade said there is still a "concerning" inequity between health outcomes for Maori and non Maori - including diabetes. Ministry of Health statistics from December 2014 show there were 11,741 estimated diagnosed cases of diabetes in Northland - 4449 of those Maori.

"We hope that patients going through an intervention will be able to improve their mental well being, which in turn will improve their ability to self-manage their diabetes in the community," he said.

He said in Northland there were no statistics which showed the correlation with diabetes and mental health issues.