Healthy living

Diabetes amputation rates vary across regions

Diabetes amputation rates vary across regions Call for better NHS foot care for patients

Amputation rates for patients with diabetes vary across England, with rates ten times higher in some regions compared with others, a study has shown.

Health charity Diabetes UK says that around 80 per cent of the 6,000 diabetes-related amputations in England each year are preventable, and called for an end to the postcode lottery of NHS foot care.

The study, published in the journal Diabetologica, compared lower leg amputation rates from Primary Care Trusts across England over a three year period.

The data revealed a tenfold difference in amputation rates, from two amputations in every 10,000 people with diabetes, to 22 in every 10,000.

Diabetes patients are also more than 20 times more likely to have an amputation compared with the general population, the study found.

Professor William Jeffcoate, a consultant diabetologist at Nottingham City Hospital, and one of the chief authors of the report, said a more integrated approach to foot care was needed.

He said: "Foot disease is very complicated and a single professional hasn't necessarily got the skills to manage every aspect of it.

"And that's why I believe that only if you can gather a multi-disciplinary team and make sure that people have rapid access to assessment by such a team, it's only in that way that we think you can provide the best service."

Diabetes UK has launched a national campaign - Putting Feet First - to raise awareness of the importance of foot care among people with diabetes, and to demand better NHS foot care for patients. The charity is also aiming to reduce diabetes-related amputations by 50 per cent in the next five years.

The annual cost of diabetes-related amputations is estimated to be around £120 million, according to a recent NHS report.

Barbara Young, chief executive at 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.

"A big part of bringing this to an end is giving people with diabetes information about how to look after their feet, as many of them are not even aware that amputation is a potential complication. But we also need to make sure they understand what healthcare they should be getting.

"Foot ulcers can deteriorate in a matter of hours, so failing to refer someone quickly enough can literally be the difference between losing a foot and keeping it.

"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."

This article was published on Wed 7 March 2012

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