Tackle foot care postcode lottery to end amputations, diabetes charity urges

Thousands of amputations among people with diabetes in England could be avoided if a 'postcode lottery' of foot care was tackled, according to a diabetes charity.

Too many diabetes-related foot problems are resulting in amputation (Photograph: SPL)
Too many diabetes-related foot problems are resulting in amputation (Photograph: SPL)

The charity has launched a campaign to tackle the issue at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2012, being held in Glasgow this week.

People with diabetes are over 20 times more likely to have a lower limb amputation. Around 80% of the 6,000 diabetes-related amputations in England each year are preventable.

Putting Feet First aims to reduce diabetes-related amputations by half within the next five years.

Baroness Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: 'A single preventable amputation is one too many and so the fact that thousands of people in the UK are enduring unnecessary foot amputations is nothing short of a national disgrace.'

She added: 'Amputations have a devastating effect on quality of life and so every amputation that results from poor healthcare is a tragedy. Put together, these add up to a scandal that is one of the reasons that life expectancy for someone with diabetes is significantly shorter than for the general population. It is a scandal that needs to be brought to an end.'

Research to be presented at today's conference will suggest that an 'unacceptably high' number of hospitals are failing to comply with NICE guidance on referral for specialist foot care.

Another study will show that less than half of patients admitted with emergency diabetes-related foot problems had the blood supply to their feet assessed. Only around a quarter were assessed for nerve damage.

Diabetes UK has said everyone with diabetes ought to get a thorough annual foot check and for foot ulcers in people with the condition to be referred to specialist diabetes foot care teams within 24 hours.

The charity's campaign comes after an analysis of England's National Diabetes Audit found that up to 24,000 deaths a year among diabetes patients could be prevented through better management.

This followed the government's diabetes czar calling on GP practices to deliver more of the nine key annual diabetes checks, which includes foot checks, to improve management of the condition.

  • Our reporter Stephen Robinson will be reporting from the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2012 on 7 and 8 March. Follow him on Twitter on @sh_robinson, and follow the event hashtag at #dpc12

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