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Research on preventing amputations

Diabetes causes more than 180 amputations in the UK every week. But many are preventable with the right care. And our research has been at the forefront of driving foot care forward.  

We helped set up the UK's first diabetic foot clinic

In 1981, we helped King’s College Hospital set up the UK’s first diabetes foot clinic. Bringing together the skills of chiropodists, shoe-fitters, nurses, doctors and surgeons, to offer specialised and urgent care to people with diabetes and foot problems for the first time.  

Within three years, the number of major amputations halved.  

Professor Michael Edmonds, King’s College Hospital, pioneered the first diabetes foot clinic there. He said: 

“We’re indebted to Diabetes UK for the support we received to build the Diabetic Foot Clinic. Foot care for people with diabetes is of paramount importance. Here at King’s, we’ve pioneered ways to try to heal ulcers long before the damage goes too far and help avoid unnecessary amputations.” 

Maria Niemis, who lives with type 2 diabetes, said: 

“I feel very lucky and fortunate that I was able to get my foot treated at King’s College foot clinic.   

“I’d been admitted to hospital with a life-threatening foot infection and nearly had to have an amputation. But at the foot clinic, my doctor believed it was possible to save my foot. It was a slow recovery – I was treated there for a year – but they did it.  

“I’ve been through a lot, but thankfully I can now walk and I look to the future with optimism.”  

Maria Niemis

Preventing amputations in the future

We’ve carried on backing fresh thinking in our search for better ways to prevent and treat foot problems.   

With our funding, in 2018, Professor Neil Reeves showed that a ‘smart’ shoe insole system that raises an alarm if pressure to the feet reaches dangerous levels, can help prevent foot ulcers caused by diabetes by 70%. He’s now building the evidence needed to see this technology rolled out on the NHS.    

In 2023, Professor Praveen Anand revealed that capsaicin – the molecule that gives chillis their fiery kick – can reduce foot pain and help reverse nerve damage. Something no other treatment can currently do. 

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