Diabetes-Support.org.uk was set up, initially as just a peer support forum, by two “ordinary diabetics”, Patti and Terry, in 2007. That venture into cyberspace was prompted by the imminent closure of the only other independent UK-focused diabetes forum and the clear benefits it had brought to many people.

The ethos of the forum was simple: it would be run by UK diabetics for other diabetics, aiming to maintain a friendly, supportive and welcoming community, allowing experiences to be exchanged between a range of members from the knowledgeable to the complete novices. The forum deliberately chose to avoid association with any particular body or organisation, so as not to promote a particular philosophy and accepts no sponsorship, commercial input or advertising.

The forum is entirely free to join. Initial personal funding by the organisers was later supplemented by the “DSF shop” – an online portal at http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/diabetessupport via which members can do their online shopping with big-name retailers and, at no personal cost, generate a small commission that helps cover hosting and other costs.

The forum rapidly developed into a thriving community, helped by the invaluable work of a moderator group dedicated to supporting the original aims. And most important, the ideas, enthusiasm and commitment of its members steered it and made it the valuable resource it has become.

The information section of the site arose in response to member demand for a reference base containing information and links regularly asked for, or quoted in the forum. Also in response to member demand, a live chat room was set up for those preferring instant contact with other members.  Chat is typically active in the evenings (UK time).

One interesting development in recent years has been the acknowledgement by certain individuals and groups within the umbrella of the National Health Service (NHS) that well run forums can be of genuine benefit to patients, helping them cope better with their diabetes, gain improvements in control and interact more easily with healthcare professionals because of understanding picked up from others in a similar situation. As such, forum members have been involved in several projects at local and national level exploring how peer support can complement traditional healthcare.

Nonetheless, DSF remains entirely volunteer-run and not-for-profit.