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JDRF President Her Royal Highness meets children living with type 1 diabetes and Hollywood star Jeremy Irvine

31 January 2013

JDRF President Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall today met children living with type 1 diabetes – and Hollywood star Jeremy Irvine – at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH).

Jeremy Irvine, who also supports the charity, played the lead role in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster War Horse. This spring will see him appear alongside Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in The Railway Man. Jeremy, who will portray a captured British officer in the World War Two epic, applied to join the army himself when he was 19 – but was rejected when the army learned that he has type 1 diabetes.

The event saw Her Royal Highness speak to patients including five-year-old Ben Wilkinson from Bushey, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of just two and Izzi Hickmott,15, from Brighton was diagnosed when she was ten years old. The Duchess of Cornwall also met patients’ families who face such daunting challenges following a diagnosis, which means a dependency upon multiple daily insulin injections or pump infusions simply to stay alive.

UCLH is one of the UK’s leading institutions for insulin pump therapy – a treatment which can drastically improve quality of life for those with type 1 diabetes. Insulin pumps remove the necessity of multiple daily injections and can offer improved blood glucose control, both of which are especially crucial for children.

At UCLH, 64 per cent of patients receive this form of therapy. This compares to a mere 3.7 per cent across the UK. This is one of the lowest rates of pump therapy in any developed nation worldwide, and places the UK behind the Czech Republic.

The Duchess of Cornwall was given a tour of the hospital by Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF and UCLH’s Professor Peter Hindmarsh, who is a leading clinician in paediatric type 1 diabetes treatment.

Jeremy Irvine, who is from Cambridgeshire, was not the only actor present. Susan Hampshire, OBE, known for leading roles in the likes of Monarch of the Glen, was also in attendance as a supporter of JDRF.

Karen Addington said: “We are absolutely delighted to have The Duchess of Cornwall demonstrate her support for the work of JDRF. Type 1 diabetes is a challenging and serious autoimmune condition, often overlooked, which affects 400,000 children and adults across the UK. We are very thankful for her support, which will help more people understand what it is like to live with type 1 and become involved with the work that we do.”

Professor Peter Hindmarsh, consultant paediatric endocrinologist at UCLH, said: "Type 1 diabetes in children places a huge strain on families because of the need to get good long term control and also maintain normal family activities.  Things that we all take for granted - like going on a daytrip - take so much more planning. This is why projects such as the JDRF artificial pancreas are so important. Staff at UCLH work extremely hard to help families cope with this condition. The visit by Her Royal Highness is a great morale boost and will undoubtedly inspire us all to continue our efforts to support patients with this devastating condition."   

More photos of the day will be uploaded soon.

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