Figures Reveal How Many Diabetics are Missing Out on Proper Foot Checks

by Barbara Hewitt on April 29, 2015

Hundreds of thousands of diabetics in England are not having an annual foot check, despite these being important for preventing diabetes related amputation, according to a new analysis.

An examination of new figures by leading charity Diabetes UK based on NHS data reveal that an estimated 414,784 people with diabetes in England are not getting the check. This amounts to 27.2% of people with type 1 diabetes and 13.3% of those with type 2 diabetes.

diabetes_footcareThis is despite the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) saying that everyone with the condition should get one once a year and the charity pointed out that 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% of them could be prevented. The foot check is a chance for potential problems to be identified, assessed, and preventative action to be taken.

Diabetes UK also explained that amputations and foot ulcers have a huge detrimental impact on quality of life and they cost lives with up to 80% of people with diabetes dying within five years following an amputation.

It has published a new leaflet aimed at highlighting 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.

‘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,’ said Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK.

‘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,’ she explained.

But she pointed out that 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,’ she said.

Former Tottenham Hotspur football club Captain Gary Mabbutt who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 17, has spoken out about his experience. ‘Two years ago I faced the most frightening moment of my life when, woken up in the early hours of the morning by extreme pain in my left leg, I was rushed into surgery being told my left leg might need to be amputated because, due to my diabetes, a blocked artery was preventing blood getting to my leg,’ he said.

‘I was extremely fortunate that the surgeons were able to save my leg. Sadly I can no longer kick a football or go for a run with my dog but I realise just how lucky I am that I was saved from having an amputation. Up until that point I had not had any major problems with my feet and had received excellent foot care, but I know that this isn’t the case for many people,’ he added.

‘My hope now is that what happened to me will raise awareness of the importance of looking after your feet when you have diabetes. It is vital that people understand the importance of good foot care, that foot care services are improved, and that people know what care they should expect to receive in their foot checks. It’s absolutely vital that people request a foot check if they have not automatically been invited to one, and that they attend these checks,’ he concluded.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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