Implementing a national Diabetes Prevention Programme in England: Lessons learned

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Type 2 diabetes mellitus is preventable through lifestyle intervention. Diabetes prevention programmes (DPPs) aim to deliver prevention-based behaviour change interventions to reduce incidence. Such programmes vary from usual primary care in terms of where, how, and by whom they are delivered. Implementation is therefore likely to face new commissioning, incentive and delivery challenges. We report on the implementation of a national DPP in NHS England, and identify lessons learned in addressing the implementation challenges.
In 2017/18, we conducted 20 semi-structured telephone interviews covering 16 sampled case sites with the designated lead(s) responsible for local implementation of the programme. Interviews explored the process of implementation, including organisation of the programme, expectations and attitudes to the programme, funding, target populations and referral and clinical pathways. We drew on constant comparative methods to analyse the data and generate over-arching themes. We complemented our qualitative data with a survey focused on variation in the financial incentives used across sites to ensure usual primary care services recruited patients to new providers.
We identified five over-arching areas of learning for implementing this large-scale programme: 1) managing new providers; 2) promoting awareness of services; 3) recruiting patients; 4) incentive payments; and 5) mechanisms for sharing learning. In general, tensions appeared to be caused by a lack of clear roles/responsibilities between hierarchical actors, and lack of communication. Both local sites and the national NHS coordination team gained experience through learning by doing. Initial tensions with roles and expectations have been worked out during implementation.
Implementing a national disease prevention programme is a major task, and one that will be increasingly faced by health systems globally as they aim to adjust to demand pressures. We provide practical learning opportunities for the wider uptake and sustainability of prevention programmes. Future implementers might wish to define clear responsibilities for each actor prior to implementation, ensure early engagement with new providers, offer mechanisms/forums for sharing learning, generate evidence and provide advice on incentive payments, and prioritise public and professional awareness of the programme.
Original languageEnglish
Article number991
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalB M C Health Services Research
Early online date23 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Diabetes
  • Prevention
  • Implementation
  • Health systems


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