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Better foot care could pay for more NHS specialists

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New analysis shows providing better and quicker foot care could save NHS money and be ploughed into paying for more foot doctors or podiatrists.

If you’ve got diabetes, you have a much greater risk of developing foot problems. That’s because of the damage raised blood sugars can cause to sensation and circulation. 

Tottenham and England defender Gary Mabbutt MBE has Type 1 diabetes. He said: “Taking good care of my feet wasn’t just about keeping fit as a footballer but because my diabetes can severely affect them.

"Being able to see a foot specialist and getting the right treatment at the right time is vital for all of us who live with diabetes.”

Savings can pay for more foot specialists

Several NHS Trusts in England have shown that better foot care for people with diabetes is possible - by setting up new ways of working. 

The analysis (PDF, 1MB) shows that in Taunton & Somerset, Ipswich and Brent, specialist foot care teams have been set up and healthcare teams trained to understand how to give the right foot care for people with diabetes. 

Somerset hospitals and GPs set up a ‘diabetes foot pathway’ to give specialist help to people with diabetes more quickly. A 24 hour referral system and specialist training for podiatrists, nurses and doctors caused major amputations in Somerset to drop by 43 per cent. Preventing an estimated 20 amputations per year and reducing inpatient time saved approximately £926,000, almost six times the cost of improving the service.

Lack of referrals

In many areas of the country there’s no clear way to refer people with diabetes to appropriate specialist services. Nearly a third of hospitals don’t have a multidisciplinary foot care team. And almost two in three people with diabetes have no foot risk assessment during their hospital stay, despite this being recommended by NICE.

Diabetes UK’s Chief Executive Chris Askew said: “NHS Commissioners should be spending money treating ulcers rather than on managing their extreme consequences. And prompt treatment for a person with a foot ulcer can prevent both the personal and economic cost of an amputation.

“It makes sense for NHS Commissioners and budget-holders to invest now in effective foot care services, especially as the diabetes crisis facing the UK means an ever growing number of people are being diagnosed with the condition.”

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