The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Leeds dietitian honoured with prestigious lifetime achievement award from the British Dietetic Association

5 September 2019

Frances Hanson, a dietitian from Leeds Children’s Hospital, has been awarded a prestigious Lifetime Achievement award from the British Dietetic Association (BDA); the professional body for dietitians in the UK. 

The Ibex Award is the highest honour bestowed upon a member of the BDA and is only given to those who have made significant contributions to the profession. It recognises a personal commitment of at least five years to the profession, active participation in the work of the BDA at regional or national level, and a dedication to promoting the highest standards in the science and practice of dietetics.

Frances trained to be a dietitian 29 years ago at what was then Leeds Polytechnic. She went on to work in a number of dietetic roles around the country and has been at Leeds Teaching Hospitals for 17 years, specialist in paediatric diabetes for over 15 of them. Her role has included both research and professional development: she was an Honorary Lecturer at York University (2008-2016) and has had several papers published.

In 2007, Frances co-founded the BDA’s specialist paediatric diabetes working group and was on the committee for a decade in which time she was instrumental in developing a national education curriculum for paediatric diabetes dietitians. In 2009/10, she was one of six diabetes educators in the KICkOFF structured education research trial (Children’s DAFNE), and more recently has been involved in the rewrite and implementation of the Goals of Diabetes national structured education programme.                                           

Fast forward to today and Frances continues to play a hugely important national role: in 2017 she was the first paediatric diabetes dietitian in the country to become a Diabetes UK Clinical Champion and has used this leadership role to support the work of Digibete - a digital platform that provides 24/7 information, education and support to families living with Type 1 Diabetes.

It is the culmination of all of this work that led to Frances being nominated for the Ibex award which she says “came as a complete shock”. She continues, “The thing I’m most proud of is that whilst I was never very academic at university, I have stuck at it and been able to achieve a lot within my profession.” 

The role of the dietitian in paediatric diabetes has evolved rapidly during Frances’ career, particularly with the implementation of digital technology such as wearable glucose sensors and insulin pumps which, combined with Frances’ expertise in nutrition education, is helping patients manage their condition better than ever before. She says, “There will always be a role for nutrition, healthy lifestyles and exercise management alongside technology. There are some exciting emerging therapy treatments including ‘smart’ insulins and immunotherapy, which were totally Space Age ideas when I started my career but are now becoming a reality. It’s a really exciting time to work in diabetes and we’re lucky enough in Leeds to be at the forefront of these developments.” 

Frances Hanson Copy

Chief Executive Julian Hartley said, “This is a fantastic recognition of Frances’ dedication and hard work. With her support, hundreds - if not thousands - of children and young people have grown up with the tools and techniques to manage their condition and live their best life.

“The role of dietitians in the NHS is absolutely vital; they help patients to get the right nutrition, speeding their recovery process, preventing disease and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Frances is a fantastic ambassador for the profession and this award is richly deserved.” 

Maddie Julian, Digibete co-founder and mother of a young child with Type 1 Diabetes, says: “Frances has worked tirelessly to support families both on and offline.  In her role as Non-Executive Director for DigiBete she has dedicated time and support for families living with type 1 diabetes through the development of her very own carb counted 'Frances' Kitchen' series.  In addition she has supported the clinical approval cycles for all of DigiBete's 130+ films and resources. 

“Frances goes above and beyond to support families like ours living with Type 1 Diabetes and truly listens to the needs of needs of her patients.  We will forever be thankful for Frances' contribution to the delivery of Digibete for the benefit of all the families at Leeds Children's Hospital and the wider Type 1 Diabetes community nationally."

So, after 29 years what is it that keeps Frances in the profession? She says, “The thing I like the most is the consistency of patient contact. I get to know families over many years and watch the children and young people grow up and reach their milestones, which is something special and really rewarding.”