A North Staffordshire research team hopes to save patients time and the NHS millions with a new home testing kit for diabetics.

The scientists, led by Clinical Biochemist Dr Chris Duff, want to end the need for Britain’s four million patients with diabetes to visit a clinic for routine haemoglobin testing every four months.

Their DIY version of the HbA1c test will be similar to the finger prick kit some diabetic patients currently use to monitor their own blood sugar.

Patients will be shown how to collect tiny samples of blood using the kits, which will be delivered to their homes at regular intervals then returned by post for laboratory testing.

The project, based at Keele University and University Hospital of North Midlands, has been funded in part with a £7,515 grant from the North Staffordshire Medical Institute.

Time-saving innovation

Researcher Kathryn Ford explained: “We’re trying to help patients do their diabetes monitoring at home rather than coming into hospital because it’s inconvenient.

“At the moment they have to take time off work, then they have to go to the hospital, they have to park.

“We want them to be able to do a finger prick at home and send it in on a card rather than coming in to have their blood taken.”

The team have already developed the test and shown that the dried blood can survive the postal system until it is reconstituted in the laboratory.

Their next step will be to create the kit itself and recruit patients to take part in a pilot scheme.

She added: “I need to get a focus group of about 20 patients with diabetes and ask them if they would like to take part in the trial.

“We can then get patient feedback and hopefully roll it out.”

Preventing Complications

The HbA1c test measures the levels of glycated haemoglobin in a patient’s blood to see how well they have been controlling their diabetes over the previous months.

A healthy level for non-diabetics is below 42 mmol/mol, whereas diabetics are told to aim for around 48mmol/mol.

Higher levels of the substance show a patient’s diabetes is badly-controlled, putting them at risk of serious complications like blindness, heart disease and limb amputations.

Kate said: “You can end up with kidney disease, heart disease, eye problems, numbness in your hands. It’s all very unpleasant.

“We want them to test every three to four months but to get patients to test every three to four months is very difficult.

“By sending the kits out at the right time we can better control the frequency of the testing and by doing that we can optimise monitoring.”

Professor Shaughn O’Brien, chairman of the North Staffordshire Medical Institute, said: “I expect this to be a very real advance in diabetic care.

“As well as the convenience for the patients improved blood sugar control is likely to be very much improved.

“I look forward to seeing the data on the cohort being presented at next year’s annual research awards event.”

The North Staffordshire Medical Institute is a charity funded by public donations that provides grants for vital medical research in the Staffordshire area.

To find out more about our work, visit nsmedicalinstitute.co.uk.

By Meg Jorsh