George Parker, Debbie Tipping, Joanne Morris and Dr Sam Rice

A dedicated resource for diabetes patients in Llanelli is to get an award of £10,000 as the nominated charity of Parker Plant Hire. George Parker and his company were the VIP Patrons at the Cofio Cinio event at Parc y Scarlets on Tuesday (Oct 31). Ten local businesses had paid £3,000 each for VIP Patron’s packages and their business cards were placed into a draw. Parker Plant Hire’s card was first out of the draw and received the £10,000 from the Ray Gravell and Friends Charitable Trust.

The Meurig Williams Diabetes Centre is a culmination of the relocation of diabetes services and was named after recently retired Senior Diabetes Consultant Dr Meurig Williams. The award has added poignancy as two of the nurses Debbi Tipping and Joanne Morris were nurses involved in caring for Ray Gravell during his treatment for diabetes.

It is the first time in Wales for a centre to offer all the services for the care and treatment of patients with diabetes including Diabetic Eye Screening Wales, Vascular Podiatry, Leg Ulcer Clinics, Diabetes Nurse Specialist Clinics, Chronic Conditions Clinical Psychology, Dietetics, Insulin Pump and Antenatal Clinics, in effect a one-stop diabetes centre. It has its own parking facilities right next to the building.

Dr Sam Rice is a Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist and the current WEDS secretary. He undertook his specialist training in many of the hospitals an South Wales and did his PhD in Cardiff University. He is now based at Prince Phillip Hospital in Llanelli. Speaking to Llanelli Online after receiving the award Dr Rice said that he was delighted with the £10,000 which he said would go a long way to providing much needed equipment for the centre.

Speaking about the nature of diabetes Dr Rice said: “It is a mixture of contributing factors really. The way we eat, the way we live and behave. There is often a family history. I am a true believer that we have a responsibility ourselves and we can change. I would say that the way we work is reactive with the end points and we see them at their worse. The frustration is that we know if things had been different in the beginning if there had been a change to lifestyle they may never have come to us. Ray Gravell was a high profile patient.”

Dr Rice said that the hospital staff and the NHS in particular have to work hard for every penny and that it was important to engage with charities for funding. He said it was amazing to be involved with the Ray Gravell and Friends Charitable Trust’s event at Parc y Scarlets.

Speaking about the growing number of people with diabetes Diabetic Nurse Debbie Tipping said: “We are event driven in the NHS. It is frustrating to be fire fighting but we are looking at moving our whole service around to preventative work. What we are trying to do and what we will use the money for is for diagnostic machines to test circulation. If we can test them early enough we can give them the advice and halt alter the numbers. I believe it should become compulsory to have these MOT tests starting at a young age through healthy eating. We have more and more young children coming in with Type2 Diabetes. We are hoping to get more portable machines to take out to communities. They are extremely portable and can be taken to people’s homes. We rely heavily on charity.”

Joanne Morris is also a diabetic nurse and looked after Ray Gravell during his illness. Speaking about that time she said: “Ray had a huge impact on my career. When I met Ray there were only two specialists and there are 12 today. Ray was very aware of his body, his physiology and it was quite shocking to meet this legend at such a late stage. We were questioning why we hadn’t met him at an earlier stage. He had a massive influence on people who play sport but also on medical people who want to make change in the area of diabetes. I would like to see foot circulation tests occurring anywhere we can set them up. It is a simple blood pressure cuff that goes on the toe and the ankle.
“We had great fun with Ray. The first time I met him he didn’t have a lot of clothes on. He was in his underpants in a hospital bed. The first thing he said was ‘Oh Joe Fach I have heard so much about you’. I said I thought that when I met a legend he would have more clothes on. It was if I were the celebrity not Ray. He was so positive even with his illness. He came in to see us when he had hie new prosthetic leg.”

Dr Rice was optimistic that things could change but said that he had concerns about the short and long term prognosis of diabetes in Wales at present. He said: “Diabetes is going to increase in the short and long term. There are a number of reasons for that. We are working on ways of informing people. We have done some fabulous work with a film company and we use a lot of social media. The more people who understand how to look after themselves the more likely they are to avoid late stages and chronic problems associated with diabetes.”

Dr Meurig Williams

Dr Meurig Williams I am very honoured to have the new diabetes centre named after me. We are seeing a huge increase in diabetes. In the twenty years I was at the hospital the number of people with diabetes in Carmarthenshire has increased from 5,000 to around 12,000. It has more than doubled.

Dr Wiliams said that the growing problem could be attributed to a couple of main factors. He said: “It is down to diet and lifestyle. Life has changed now. People eat high calorific content, ready made meals. It is coupled with less activity. People have adopted very sedentary lifestyles and the two things together mean that we have now got a massive epidemic of obesity. People are living longer and diabetes is something that comes on with age.

Speaking about a preventative approach Dr Williams said: “There is an increasing amount of emphasis on prevention. That is the best way to approach it. We have had research programmes for the hospital staff and the steel workers at Trostre. We invited people over the age of 40 to undergo a cardiovascular health check. That can enable us to give you an estimate of the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease and strokes in later life. You can identify the people that are likely to develop diabetes ten years before hand and give them appropriate advice. There is so much that can be done to prevent complications. Ray was an example of late complications of diabetes. If people are well looked after the risks can be minimised.

Tests for diabetes are now readily available on the high street. Dr Williams said: “We already have pharmacies offering services, tests for diabetes. Once you develop diabetes we have a system where you get regularly reviewed by your local surgery. As the years go on you may need more treatment and we hope you follow healthy lifestyle advice. We rely heavily on charity. Diabetes is such a massive problem because it affects one in 15 people. The NHS has to carry most of the burden. 10% of the NHS budget is spent on people with diabetes. It is becoming increasingly difficult as people live longer and develop chronic diseases.”

In accepting the award at the glittering event addressing the audience and thanking the trust George Parker said that there were a few reasons for choosing his nominated charity.

The first he said was that a good friend of his Clive Dakin had lost his life to diabetes. Three of Clive’s sons were at the event as guests of Parker Plant Hire.
Secondly he said that diabetes is on the increase and needs support and it was at the heart of the Ray Gravell and Friends Charitable Trust’s work.
Thirdly he said It seemed to be the most appropriate charity. They have opened the centre in Llanelli.

You can watch some educational videos on diabetes here:

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