More than 400,000 people with diabetes in England are not having an annual foot check, despite these being important for preventing diabetes-related amputation, according to a new analysis by Diabetes UK.
The new figures, based on NHS data, reveal that an estimated 414,784 people with diabetes in England are not getting the check, which equates to 27.7% of people with type 1 diabetes and 13.3% of people with type 2 diabetes . This is despite NICE saying that everyone with the condition should get one once a year.
Foot checks are vital for people with diabetes because poor control of blood glucose levels can lead to nerve damage, poor circulation and reduced feeling in the feet and legs. This in turn can lead to serious foot problems, such as ulcers, that can lead to amputation. More than 100 diabetes-related amputations are carried out in the UK every week, and it is thought that up to 80 per cent of them could be prevented. The foot check is a chance for potential problems to be identified, assessed, and preventative action to be taken.
Amputations and foot ulcers have a huge detrimental impact on quality of life. They also cost lives with up to 80 per cent of people with diabetes dying within five years following an amputation . Foot ulcers and amputations are also very costly to the NHS – accounting for around £1 in every £150 the NHS spends each year.
In a step to address this, Diabetes UK has published a new leaflet, ‘What To Expect At Your Annual Foot Check’, as part of its ‘Putting Feet First’ campaign. The leaflet highlights why it is so important to get an annual foot check and outlines the components of a ‘good’ foot check, such as a thorough examination and a test of the foot nerves, so people know what to expect in their checks. This is needed because in many cases where people do get foot checks, they are not thorough enough and people are not told what their risk of developing serious foot problems is.Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “We know that good diabetes care can dramatically reduce the risk of amputation. The foot check people should get at least once a year is an essential part of this and so it is worrying that more than 400,000 people with diabetes are still not getting one.Given the high levels of preventable diabetes-related amputations, it is unacceptable that the proportion of people getting the check has hardly changed over recent years. It is one of the reasons so many people with diabetes are forced to endure an amputation and we urgently need to get to a point where everyone with the condition is getting their annual foot check.
“But having a check is not enough on its own. When people do get foot checks, we know from the experiences people with diabetes share with us that they are often not thorough enough, with some people not even being asked to remove their shoes or socks. This is why people need to download the ‘What To Expect At Your Annual Foot Check’ leaflet and take it along to their foot checks so that they can be confident they are receiving the necessary level of good care, are being advised what their risk is and understand how to prevent problems.”