Transition to adult diabetes care

As a teenager, you’ll probably find yourself busy juggling things like study, work, relationships, finances and parties. You may be thinking about the future, things like work, uni and moving out of home. Having diabetes on top of all the usual teenage stuff like a busy social life and lots of demands can be tricky to manage.

As you get older you’ll also find that you move on from paediatric to adult diabetes care. Depending on where you go, this might happen in your late teenage years or when other things change e.g. you start going to work. It’s important to plan your move from paediatric to adult care so that you can still enjoy yourself without running into too much trouble with your diabetes.

Paediatric care or adult care- what is the difference?

The paediatric system is a very supportive environment where your parents are mostly responsible for making sure you get to clinic and helping you manage your diabetes. HbA1c screening is performed at clinic and complications screening is done yearly and mostly on the one day.

Most paediatric centres have an after hours number that can be called if you need help with your diabetes. If you live in the country or see a doctor privately then this may be managed a little differently.

The adult system is very different and attending clinic for the first time can be a shock. You might find that waiting rooms are filled with people of all ages with different types of diabetes and waiting times in public hospitals can be long.

You’ll see the doctor by yourself in the adult system and you need to know that what is said between you and the doctor and other health professionals is confidential. In other words they won’t be discussing your care with your parents unless it’s with your permission and with you present.

This is a time when you start realising that you’re the one now responsible for your diabetes. But, don’t be alarmed, help is at hand. There is a great deal of support and information to help you transition into adult care.

Hospital clinics

Hospital clinics are free under Medicare but you’ll need a referral from your GP. A specialist is in charge of the clinic and oversees the work of the trainee doctors. You may or may not see the same doctor each time. At the hospital clinic you’ll also have the opportunity to see a diabetes educator and dietitian.

Private health care providers

A referral is needed from your GP. You’ll be charged a fee and there’ll be a gap to pay between the Medicare payment and fee charged. You’ll need to complete a form for Medicare to get your money back. Under special circumstances (financial hardship) the specialist may negotiate the payment of the gap.

You’ll see the same doctor every time and they’ll keep in touch with your GP. You can also let your specialist know if you want letters sent to any other health professionals. A diabetes educator and dietitian are usually not available at private specialist clinics, so you’ll need to arrange this separately.

The role of the GP

It’s really important that you have a regular GP that you get along with and trust. It’s good to have someone else who can help and who knows what’s happening to you. If you get sick your GP can help and be in contact with your specialist. Medicare may cover visits to the GP if they bulk bill. Your GP can help with emergency insulin scripts, general illness and referrals to other health professionals, however, it’s still important that you see a diabetes specialist.

Private Health Funds

Private health funds cover many areas, there are different levels and the costs vary. Private health insurance can help with the cost of private hospital admissions, the cost of seeing other health care professionals in private practice (eg. psychologists, dietitians, and physiotherapists) – each fund deals with this differently. Private health Funds do not cover costs of seeing your diabetes specialist (except for hospital). You don’t have to be in a private health fund to see a specialist privately.

Other stuff to think about


Getting yourself to appointments can be a challenge as your situation changes. There may not be anyone to take you to appointments and you may have to rely on public transport. There may not be enough time to get there between lectures or after work. The hours for most appointments are between 9 and 5pm. You need to think about all of this and plan ahead. Not many centres run an after-hours or weekend clinic that you can attend. Some private specialists do a late clinic so this may make it easier to find a suitable time that fits in with you.

Get the facts

It’s important that you get an update about diabetes management, especially if your parents were the ones who were initially educated when you were diagnosed. There are many other things you need to think about like alcohol, driving, contraception, pregnancy and parties. You need to understand how to manage when you’re sick, how to adjust your insulin and manage from day to day.

Moving On Up

‘Moving on up’ is a 32-page booklet which focuses on the challenges and opportunities that young people face as they become young adults; how they can live well with their diabetes through this time of transition from paediatric to adult healthcare services and, importantly, the responsibilities they have for their own diabetes care and the support they can expect to receive.

This resource has been developed for young adults living with diabetes (aged 16 – 24 years) and their parents.

The resource includes six sections focused on moving on:

  • to an adult diabetes service
  • to work, university or TAFE
  • to four wheels (driving)
  • out of home
  • with life
  • with a new diabetes care team.

You can find the online e:book and pdf at

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