Diabetes-related amputations on rise in SW

New analysis from Diabetes UK has shown that there were 3,287 diabetes-related lower limb amputations from 2014 to 2017 in the south-west, an increase of 16.5 per cent from 2010-2013.

There has been a significant rise in minor lower limb amputations (23.6 per cent), defined as below the ankle, but a slight decrease in the number of major lower limb amputations (-0.5 per cent), defined as below the knee. The south west was one of only two regions in England to record fewer major amputations in the past three years.

People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing problems in their feet because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, affecting how blood flows to the feet and legs. Unhealed ulcers and foot infections are the leading cause of diabetes related amputations, with diabetic foot ulcers preceding more than 80 per cent of amputations.

Diabetes is the most common cause of lower limb amputations in the UK. Someone living with diabetes is 20 times more likely to experience an amputation than someone without the condition.

Foot ulcers and amputations are also hugely costly for the NHS, with at least £1 in every £140 of NHS spending going towards foot care for people with diabetes. Foot problems can be devastating to a person’s quality of life and are often life-threatening.

Since 2017, NHS England’s Diabetes Transformation Fund has invested more than £80 million across England to improve access to specialist footcare teams to help people with diabetes look after their feet and avoid amputations. The fund has also been used to increase uptake of structured education for people with diabetes, to help them manage their condition well and understand the actions they must take to avoid complications, which can lead to amputation.

Diabetes UK is calling on NHS England to commit to maintaining the Diabetes Transformation Fund beyond 2019.

Phaedra Perry, Diabetes UK South West Regional Head, said:

“The shocking number of lower limb amputations caused by diabetes grows year on year. An amputation, regardless of whether it’s defined as minor or major, is devastating and life-changing. A minor amputation can still involve losing a whole foot.

“To reduce the number of diabetes-related amputations, we are calling on NHS England to maintain the Diabetes Transformation Fund beyond 2019. Many diabetes amputations are avoidable, but the quality of footcare for people living with diabetes can vary significantly.

“Thanks to Transformation Funding in the south west we have started to see a reduction in major amputations and an improvement in how quickly people with diabetes are referred to specialists when they have foot problems. We trust clinical commissioning groups will continue to prioritise footcare to now secure a reduction in minor amputations and continue to work with us to bring down amputations overall.”

It is vital that all people living with diabetes know how to look after their feet, and check them regularly to look out for the signs of foot problems. It is also crucial that people with diabetes know how important it is to seek medical attention if they spot any signs of foot problems. A matter of hours can make the difference between losing a foot, and keeping a foot.

For more information on footcare for people with diabetes, please visit: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/be-in-the-know-check-your-feet

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