Dagenham widow warns of nurse shortage

A Dagenham mum who lost her husband to a chronic disease and helped found a specialist clinic, warned of possible shortfall in nurses as spending cuts are beginning to bite into health budgets.

Elaine Clark, of Roosevelt Road, Dagenham, thinks her husband John may still be alive if she had had the advice and support of a specialist clinic which opened just months after his death in 2008.

Porters Avenue Health Centre in Dagenham, which employs specialist diabetes nurses, is now a beacon for diabetes care at a time when many parts of the country do not have enough nurses.

According to Diabetes UK, 200 diabetes specialist nurse (DSN) positions are unfilled across the UK – twice the figure reported in 2009.

Elaine’s work with the group and as a patient representative helped the PCT develop the clinic.

She said: “It’s a dream that I thought would never come true.

“We’re in a lucky position, as a community, to have the clinic.”

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The centre offers help that she desperately needed when John was first diagnosed in 1990, and when he lost his eyesight eight years later.

John died of a heart failure related to type 2 diabetes aged 51, leaving behind three children aged 19, 14 and six.

Elaine was overwhelmed by the pressure and frustrated about the lack of information and support.

She said: “I did not even know that you could go blind. The shock of it was horrendous. Imagine you are never going to see your children again.

“Imagine a job advert that says you’re starting immediately with no pay, 24 hour days, no training given, no holidays – would you take a job like that?

“You’ve got to be a nurse, a doctor, a psychologist, a housekeeper.

“When we started getting support it was too late.”

As the number of diabetics in the UK is increasing, Elaine thinks it is vital to educate people about causes, prevention and possible debilitating effects of the disease.

Type 2 diabetes, in particular, can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices.

She said: “The last thing we need is cuts.

“Maybe John would still be about if we had had something like this before. You have a chance with diabetes. I am angry because I did not know.”