Diabetes UK recently revealed that the number of diabetes-related amputations has sadly reached an all-time high. Recent Public Health England data show that there are 7000 diabetes-related amputations annually (135 per week) compared with an earlier figure of 6677.
Yet, Diabetes UK believes that 80% of these amputations are avoidable.
What we have to remember is that over the past 20 years there has been a huge increase in the number of people who now have diabetes. Diabetes UK tells us that there are now 3.8 million people in the UK with diabetes, which equates to almost one in every 16 people in the UK having the disease, including those not yet diagnosed.
We have more people than ever before to whom we should be providing good quality diabetes care. However, resources are stretched to the limit, not least in primary care, where more and more demands are being placed on practice nurses. They are expected to cram more into individual appointments, so that annual reviews where thefoot check is normally conducted become pressurised.
This discrepancy needs to be addressed, so that everyone with diabetes receives the care they need, to prevent complications including amputation. Those who have any type of foot-related amputation are more likely to progress to further amputations and between 39% and 80% of that number will die within five years.
How devastating all this is to the individuals concerned, especially when so much could be prevented. Of course there are patients who do not take the associated risks of diabetes seriously, but those of us working anywhere in diabetes care need to make sure we get the message across.
Simple measures can be employed to reduce the rates of amputation, ones that do not cost lots of money. Diabetes UK has leaflets that can be downloaded from its website, free of charge, advising on foot care and foot checks. We need to get this information to those who need it – those with diabetes and also healthcare professionals – and ensure the best care is given.
Margaret Stubbs, diabetes specialist nurse, Surrey