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Service user transforms her health with help from specialist diabetes course

A Bath and North East Somerset woman has transformed her life since being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes after accessing free local support to understand her condition.

Irlene Cooper was one of the early cohorts to join Virgin Care’s X-Pert Diabetes programme; a six-week course to educate and empower people with Type 2 Diabetes to understand their condition so that they can learn how to control it.

Irlene’s experience with the programme successfully helped her improve her health and help her reduce her Body Mass Index (BMI) score.

“With a BMI of 22.5 I didn’t believe I was overweight or obese, my GP conducted a general over 65s check-up and I found out I had Type 2 Diabetes,” Irlene said. “I was surprised as I didn’t have any symptoms and I was put on medication by my GP.

“My local nurse recommended a diabetes courses and I chose X-PERT because of the location. I was also seeing my local GP monthly,” she added.

X-PERT aims to help people with diabetes improve their knowledge, skills and confidence, enabling them to take increasing control of their own condition and integrate effective self-management into their daily lives.

Around 200,000 people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes every year and more than 7,000 people in Bath and North East Somerset are living with Type 2 diabetes. If diabetes is not managed properly it can lead to serious life-threatening and life-limiting complications, such as increased risk of some cancers, kidney disease, eye sight damage, increased risk of heart and cardio vascular disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Diabetes remains the most common cause of amputation, blindness and requirement of renal dialysis in the UK.

National Diabetes Day occurs on 14 November and Virgin Care, which runs the programme, which is one of many services the organisation provides as part its Bath and North East Somerset Community Health and Care Service, is raising awareness of the programme available to local people.

Irlene says the course has helped her come to terms with being diabetic, but also helped her eat healthier, begin to exercise and says she found the course “inspirational” and “motivating”.

“A doctor’s consultation is 10 minutes, X-Pert is a two and a half hour course for six weeks with the opportunity to go back and ask questions the following week,” she said. “The encouragement from the course leader and fellow students really helped my motivation.

“The experience of other people who were on the course was also inspirational because some of them had a lot of experience of coping with diabetes before, and I’ve kept in touch with them.

“[Since taking part on the course] I’ve lost around 10 kilos. My measurement for blood sugar levels was 79 in February. Since then, my score has gone down to 46 and my cholesterol has improved and my blood pressure is also better.

“I am quite chuffed. Other people have complimented me and said that I look good. I feel good about myself and feel that I have achieved something thanks to the X-PERT team,” Irlene added.

The X-PERT programme is delivered on different days and times of the week in various venues around Bath and North East Somerset.

People are welcome to bring a friend or partner with them to any of the sessions. The courses are friendly and welcoming and they give people the chance to ask questions and meet others who are going through a similar experience.

Local people wanting to turn their life around, just like Irlene, can access X-PERT by calling the Healthy Lifestyle Service Hub on 0300 247043; by emailing BATHNES.thehub@virgincare.co.uk or contacting a GP or practice nurse for a referral.

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