Retired police officer Peter Stevens and his wife Cynthia were jointly referred to Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme after their GP detected high sugar levels in their blood tests. Peter, 79, was struggling with a shortness of breath and numbness in his feet and, knowing this could be a sign of Type 2 diabetes, was happy to take advantage of the groundbreaking programme.

The couple, from Eastbourne, attend regular groups at St Elisabeth’s Church Centre with Ingeus tutor Michael Hughes. Each session deals with the causes and remedies of Type 2 diabetes and encourages patients to achieve a healthy weight, be physically active and adopt a balanced diet.

“It’s great to attend the group together,” says Cynthia, who ran a sports equipment shop prior to retiring. “We can encourage and support each other at home and between us we have no excuse for forgetting any details! Being with other patients in the group also generates a bit of competitive spirit so it’s quite good fun to go each time and see how we’re all progressing.”

Peter, an avid rugby player in his younger days, adds: “In the first five weeks of the programme, I lost almost a stone in weight and my cholesterol level is reducing. Making quite minimal lifestyle changes like eating fruit instead of cakes and biscuits, and Cynthia and I taking regular short walks, delivers significant results. It’s a small price to pay to avoid the danger of becoming diabetic.

“Being a member of the group has been essential for us to change our habits and it’s great to have ten months’ support from Michael so we can see the effect it’s having. It’s very motivating and I am determined to lose significantly more weight before the end of the programme.”

Ingeus tutor Michael Hughes delivers Healthier You sessions to patients across Kent and East Sussex. He said:

“Type 2 Diabetes is largely caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight, and these are the areas which the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme can support people with. During the programme we not only address the effect refined sugary foods have on weight management but also the extra workload this places on the pancreas, the organ pivotal in regulating blood sugar levels. Whilst sugar itself is not a direct cause of diabetes, patients are educated on the dangers of over-consuming foods high in refined sugar which places the pancreas under extra strain and can directly increase their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

“Peter and Cynthia are part of a very friendly and proactive group and are making great progress in their journey to a healthier future.”

Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme is delivered in the south of England by Ingeus and a clinical network of NHS and other specialist colleagues. As part of a phased roll-out for the country, up to 100,000 places per year will be made available to NHS patients by 2020.