Mark Lewis has spent his whole career in the Met Police, having joined in 1980 when he was 18. Soon to complete 30 years in the force, he’s now Detective Superintendent, Specialist Operations, Protective Security Command, based at New Scotland Yard.
In 2002 he moved house and during an introductory medical with his new GP, a blood test showed higher levels of glucose than normal. Due to go on night shift, he asked his wife to buy a blood test kit. His mother-in-law has Type 1 diabetes, so they knew what to look for.
Lewis says: “My aim was to prove the doctor wrong. I was in denial — I didn’t feel unwell, not then and I still don’t. Initially I tried an exercise and diet to control the glucose levels but the tests were not improving. Two years later I went onto pill medication, which I’m still on, and my blood sugars are stable.”
Due to his experience of diabetes, Lewis was asked to be Vice Chair of the National Police Diabetic Association which holds regular meetings with the Metropolitan Police Chief Medical Officer. Earlier this year he was asked by the Met to do a risk assessment as to whether or not police officers should wear an insulin pump while on duty.
“The issues are not to do with whether or not pumps work to control blood sugars and improve control,” says Lewis, “But whether a pump could be worn in the course of daily police duty. Our candidates already knew all there was to know about using the pump, and I have to make it clear that I was not on the pump to control my diabetes — I was testing how it worked in a range of police undertakings.”
Lewis says: “As well as having personal experience of diabetes, I was a senior police officer capable of doing risk assessments in fire arms, abseiling, advance driving, motor cycling and dog handling as have experience of all these activities and at some stage in my career have been trained to undertake them. I also tried out the pump while horse riding, though I’m not qualified to ride a police horse. I also undertook to put the pump through its paces in air support with the helicopter team. You can easily blood test as a copper,” says Lewis, “But insulin injections and pump adjustments could easily become quite difficult to perform if you’re in specialised uniforms.”
Uniquely in the UK, Roche has a pump model, the Accu-Chek Combo, that can be controlled by a remote device. So while the pump is being worn by the person with diabetes, they don’t have to access the pump in order to make adjustments to doses of insulin. The remote control device can be in a pocket or in a bag, while the pump itself is worn under the necessary safety uniform.
Says Lewis, “As far as I am aware, at this moment, no one in the police, ambulance or fire services who is operational who is on the pump. But my conclusion is that someone on the pump can do anything that I did in these assessments. Basically I found that the pump worked well with police work and inside the police environment.”