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135 shoes: behind the headlines

13 August 2015

Diabetes UK recently made the headlines with a display of 135 shoes in Westminster, London. The shoes represented the number of diabetes-related amputations in England each week, following the release of new CCG diabetes foot activity profile data. There were 586 pieces of media coverage talking about the rise in the amputation rate for people with diabetes, and the fact that around 80 per cent of these amputations are preventable.

The number of diabetes-related amputations has risen to more than 7,000 per year in the period 2011-14, compared to the previous figure of 6,677 per year in 2010-13. This equates to an additional seven amputations per week, despite a recent focus on preventing these amputations. There has, however, been a decrease in the major amputation rate in people with diabetes.

While some healthcare professionals attended the event, and others have been involved throughout our Putting Feet First campaign, the majority of healthcare professionals were not alerted to the story before the event. Although Diabetes UK often alerts local healthcare professionals to upcoming regional stories, so that they are aware and can respond if they choose, in the case of a national story such as ‘135 shoes’ it is necessary for us to maintain embargoes to ensure maximum media coverage in national and trade press.

It was important to secure as much media coverage as possible to keep high quality footcare for people with diabetes high on the political agenda, to support the work that healthcare professionals are doing locally and to lever national support for this work in a climate of conflicting priorities and competition for spending in healthcare.

Podiatrist Lawrence Ambrose said of the event: "Although podiatrists and other healthcare professionals have been working hard to ensure that foot care for people with diabetes is given the priority it deserves, amputations are still steadily rising." He spoke about the importance of maintaining pressure on the government to ensure that foot services for people with diabetes are properly staffed.

It is essential that the impact of ‘135 shoes’ goes beyond media coverage. Following the media attention, the story trended on Twitter, raising awareness amongst MPs, healthcare professionals and people with diabetes. Diabetes UK’s regional teams are now looking at how they can support improvements in those areas highlighted to be a concern, and how they can better support healthcare professionals through local footcare networks.

There is still much to be done to ensure that all people with diabetes can access quality footcare. Find out more about getting involved with your local footcare network to drive care improvements in your area.

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