Understanding diabetes

In 2018, 31,365 people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were known to be living with diabetes. Many more have the condition but do not know it. Type 1 and type 2 are the most common forms. The causes of both types are different, but both result in too much glucose (sugar) in the blood.

  • Type 1 diabetes: Caused by the failure of the cells that produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to help control levels of sugar in the blood. It can occur at any age but usually appears before the age of 40. Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Caused by the body not producing enough insulin or not using what it produces effectively. It is the most common form and accounts for around 90 per cent of all diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is treated with dietary changes, medication and sometimes insulin. Diabetes can increase the risk of developing other conditions, such as heart disease. It can be managed effectively and many people with diabetes lead a healthy, active life.

Diabetes can increase the risk of developing other conditions, such as heart disease. It can be managed effectively and many people with diabetes lead a healthy, active life.

To find out if you are at risk of developing diabetes, or for more information on when you should see a doctor, visit www.nhs.uk

We are pleased to support a range of education programmes for people who are at risk of developing diabetes, those who are newly diagnosed and those people who are living with diabetes to help manage their condition. 

National diabetes prevention programme

The Healthier You national diabetes prevention programme is available to anyone who has been told by their GP or another healthcare professional that they are at risk of developing diabetes. The aim is to support people to make good lifestyle choices by giving them knowledge, ability and confidence. The programme provides people with support meetings and information for a year. People may also benefit if they are living with another long-term condition. It is free to attend.

The programme includes information on:

  • Diet.
  • Managing stress and your emotional wellbeing.
  • Physical activity.
  • Weight monitoring - and why it is necessary.

A health care professional from your GP practice will refer you to the national diabetes prevention programme.

Newly diagnosed with diabetes?

If you are an adult and have been diagnosed with diabetes in the last 12 months you should be referred to a diabetes education course. The one available across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for people with type 2 diabetes is known as DESMOND. If you have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes your diabetes specialist nurse will tell you about the best course for you.

Diabetes courses cover topics that help you understand your diabetes better. They can be great places to meet other people and have your questions about diabetes answered.

You can learn more about:

  • Tools to manage your diabetes.
  • Food choices and how to be more active.
  • Medication.
  • How to avoid diabetes problems.
  • Making the most of your diabetes appointments and getting the right checks (e.g. foot check).


DESMOND stands for diabetes education and self-management for ongoing and newly diagnosed. The programme will be held at a local venue and is a one-day course, but in your area, it may also be offered in two half-day (or equivalent) sessions.

Sessions are informal and friendly, educational but not like school. Sessions are for up to 10 people. They are led by trained health care professionals who will make you feel welcome. If you would like to bring your partner, friend or family member with you, they will be very welcome too.

These sessions can help you:

  • Understand more about type 2 diabetes.
  • Learn about things you can do to look after yourself and stay healthy with diabetes.
  • Meet other people like you, recently diagnosed with diabetes.

If you'd like to get involved, contact your doctor or nurse who will complete a referral form for you. You can take this away and contact the DESMOND team yourself to arrange a place on the next course nearest to you. Alternatively your doctor or nurse can send in the form for you and you will be contacted when the next nearest course becomes available.

For more information contact the Kernow DESMOND team on 01872 224051 or e-mail 

Carbohydrate awareness

The carbohydrate awareness course is for people with type 1 diabetes and is a three hour session which provides an introduction to the principles of carbohydrate counting. Referral is via specialist nurses.

Carbohydrate counting course

The carbohydrate counting course is a structured education programme for people with type 1 diabetes, which involves attending two three hour group education sessions, two weeks apart.

The aims of the carbohydrate counting course are to:

  • Provide up to date information about type 1 diabetes in order to better learn how to manage the condition.
  • Identify which foods contain carbohydrate.
  • Calculate the amount of carbohydrate these foods contain.
  • Understand how much insulin you will need to take for the amount of carbohydrate you have eaten.

Referral onto the course is via the secondary care diabetes team (diabetes dietitians, diabetes specialist nurses and diabetes consultants).

Glucose monitors

Flash glucose monitors
A six month trial of the FreeStyle Libre is commissioned for patients (both adults and children) with type 1 diabetes attending specialist secondary care clinics for their diabetes and who have been assessed by their specialist to meet the criteria.

Continuous glucose monitors
Continuous glucose monitors are commissioned where patients (both adults and children) with type 1 diabetes are attending specialist secondary care clinics for their diabetes and have been assessed by their specialist to meet the criteria and where the flash glucose monitor is not appropriate.

These are devices that allow for people with type 1 diabetes to see their (or their children’s) glucose values continuously, enabling immediate therapeutic adjustments on the basis of 'real time' glucose results. The device has a sensor which is fitted sub-cutaneously and measures interstitial glucose, the sensors are time limited (usually five to seven days) and thus need to be replaced regularly. The real-time monitor shows trends in glucose levels on a LCD display and indicates the rate of glucose change using arrows (the device can be a user’s smartphone). They have predictive alarms for high or low glucose level and warn of impending hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia by sounding alarm.

Insulin pumps

NHS Kernow pay for the cost of sensor augmented pump therapy (insulin pumps) for adults and children with type 1 diabetes, that fit the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) criteria.

Health and care videos

We have over 20 videos for you watch with an introduction to diabetes and pre-diabetes, information on how to stay healthy and videos about important tests and checks. View our health and care videos for diabetes.