Our history


Leicester has a strong tradition and reputation for excellence in diabetes care dating back over 60 years to the pioneering work of Doctor Joan Walker in the 1950s.  Dr Walker established the first community diabetes clinics and the first diabetes research nurses in the UK. She started work at the Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) as honorary Physician during World War 2 taking care of people with diabetes. Today, Leicester also has the highest number of people with diabetes of any city in the UK.

Dr John Hearnshaw, was Dr Walker’s successor at the LRI in 1967.  He was influential in the care of both children and adults with diabetes. He presented a review of childhood diabetes in Leicester from 1930 onwards at a meeting of the International Diabetes Federation  which formed the basis of other prevalence studies.

This pioneering spirit is still at work in the Leicester Diabetes Centre. The original research department originated at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and was opened in 1996. At this time the main research work undertaken in the department was that of commercial drug trials.

Professor Melanie Davies began the diabetes research service in 2001 with one Nurse Research Fellow who was appointed to develop non-commercial clinical trials. This led to the success of the department’s first academic study looking into the combination of different oral agents in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Since then, Professor Davies (an Honorary Consultant Physician in the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and, since February 2006, Professor of Diabetes Medicine at the University of Leicester) and colleague Professor Kamlesh Khunti (Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine, University of Leicester) have developed a talented and diverse team of over 150 researchers, clinicians and educationalists working together on an innovative research portfolio of successful academic and commercial trials.

In March 2012 the new Leicester Diabetes Centre (LDC) became operational, hosted within the  space of two clinical wards at the Leicester General Hospital (LGH) with excellent access to patients. Following the expansion into a further two ward areas which included development of an exercise laboratory and state of the art training facilities, the LDC was officially opened by Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave in November 2013.

The Centre is now one of the largest facilities in Europe for carrying out first class, cutting edge research in the field of diabetes, prevention, and related long-term conditions.

The team is recognised as leading in national and international research, education and training in diabetes.