North Tyneside CCG News

Next step towards improving foot care and reducing amputations in the North East

Wed 11th June 2014

In Diabetes Week Diabetes UK and health professionals across the North East are teaming up to try to improve foot care and reduce the number of amputations across the region.

There are currently an estimated 15,000 people with diabetes in the North East who are at high or increased risk of a diabetes-related foot attack which is an injury to a foot which has reduced feeling or reduced blood circulation. Amputations are over 20 times more common in people with diabetes and Diabetes UK says that too many people with the condition do not understand that delays to treatment could result in amputation.

In the last weeks 15,000 ‘How to Spot a Foot Attack’ leaflets were distributed to all foot clinics across the North East so everyone at high risk of foot ulcers will have clear information about when to take action to prevent serious foot problems.

The booklet includes a card that people at high risk of a foot attack can display in their home to remind them that they need to seek urgent medical attention if:

  • their foot is red, warm or swollen;
  • there is a break in the skin or any discharge or oozing onto their socks or stockings.
  • either of these is accompanied by feeling unwell.

Diabetes UK is working closely with the North East Diabetes Footcare Network, which includes consultants, podiatrists, specialist diabetes nurses and other professionals, who are battling to reduce the high rate of amputations in the North East. They meet regularly to share ideas on improving footcare practices across the region.

Diabetes UK estimates that many of the 6,000 diabetes-related amputations a year in the UK are a result of poor services and a lack of awareness, leading to many people delaying seeing their doctor for months and so missing the chance to save their foot.  Around 85 per cent of these amputations are preceded by an ulcer.

Linda Wood, Regional Manager for Diabetes UK in the Northern and Yorkshire region, said “Many people with diabetes experience loss of feeling in their foot, so it is crucial that they understand the importance of regularly checking their own feet for changes or getting a carer to do so, as they may be having a foot attack but not be experiencing any pain or discomfort.

“By raising awareness we can try to prevent many hundreds of amputations a year, which would mean huge cost savings for the NHS but more importantly avoid the awful devastation for each person of having an amputation that could have been prevented.”

Diabetes UK also wants to make sure everyone with diabetes gets a good quality foot check at least once a year and is told whether they are at high or increased risk.

At the moment, across the UK, some 15 per cent of people with diabetes do not get this check and others get a check but are not told their risk status. In some cases, there are reports of people having a foot check that is so cursory they are not even asked to take their shoes off.

In the North East the Footcare Network is determined to ensure everyone knows that they should have their feet checked regularly and know exactly who to contact if a problem flares up.

The network is also working with GPs, hospitals and specialists to ensure that when acute foot problems occur, patients are seen quickly and treated early.

Rahul Nayar, chair of the North East Diabetes Footcare Network and a diabetes consultant at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We very much welcome this foot attack leaflet from Diabetes UK. In the North East we’ve been working hard to reduce the number of diabetes-related foot amputations and we’ve seen significant improvements right across the region.

“You can’t underestimate the importance of working as a regional network to ensure we’re offering the very best service and care possible. We want to ensure everyone at risk has regular foot checks but a vital element is to raise awareness so people know what to do if problems occur. This is where the leaflet comes in. This can prevent people at risk having to have a foot amputated and as a network this is what we’re all aiming for.