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Managing patient foot care makes a difference: how you can help

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Diabetes UK’s Professional Conference starts today in Liverpool.Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, tells Nursing Times why the charity’s foot campaign is still a priority.

Since Diabetes UK launched our Putting Feet First campaign two years ago there has been a greater focus than ever before on diabetes-related amputation.  

This ‘hidden’ issue is now out in the open. Decision makers are finally waking up to the fact that as up to 80 per cent of amputations are preventable with correct management, they can play an important role.

Providing an integrated foot care pathway has been shown to reduce amputations by over 50 per cent

Our campaign has encouraged more hospitals than ever before to provide access to a multi disciplinary foot care teams (MDT). The most recent National Diabetes Inpatient Audit showed 31 per cent of hospital sites participating in the audit are recorded as not having access to an MDT, a significant reduction on the 41 per cent the previous year. But there is still considerable room for improvement and we are continuing to campaign for MDTs.

The evidence shows that providing an integrated foot care pathway, with trained staff in foot protection services in the community and speedy access to multi disciplinary teams, has been shown to reduce amputations by over 50 per cent.

Unfortunately, more than 6,000 leg, foot, or toe amputations are still being carried out each year on people with diabetes. That’s over 100 amputations a week and it’s completely unacceptable.

How can you help us drive amputation rates down? The starting point has to be making sure your patients are getting a good quality annual foot check.

We also want you to make sure your patient understands the implications of their risk status, knows how to look after their own feet, and realises the importance of urgently seeking medical attention in the event of any problems.

Nurses in primary care tell us that they need better education and training so they understand how to carry out foot checks, inform people about their risk status and refer appropriately. If that sounds like you then you could request support to get up-skilled.

When people with diabetes go into hospital, for whatever reason, they should have their feet checked on admission and throughout their stay. Is this happening where you work? If not, is there an opportunity here for you to challenge the status quo?

People with diabetes are up to 30 times more likely to have an amputation than the general population - but it doesn’t need to be the case

We have listened to your feedback and we know that you want practical tools to help you to help your patients. That’s why we’ve produced a new booklet – free to order at our online shop - aimed at people with diabetes who are at high risk of a foot attack. Called ‘How To Spot A Foot Attack’, it gives people with diabetes the vital information they need to access help, fast.

People with diabetes are up to 30 times more likely to have an amputation than the general population. But it doesn’t need to be the case. Big and small changes need to be made that aren’t rocket science.

We know what needs to be done. If better protocol is followed and patients have a better understanding of what they need to do then hundreds of amputations could be prevented. 

Spare a few minutes to place your order, discuss it with your patient and give it to them at their next review.

It could make all the difference.

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