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Home > News > Regional variations in amputation rates for diabetics

12th March 2012

Regional variations in amputation rates for diabetics

A recent study published in the journal Diabetologia, reveals that amputation rates for diabetics across England vary widely. They are up to 10 times higher in some parts of the country than others. The study fits with previous research that had suggested that up to 80% of diabetes-related amputations could be avoided.

Diabetics don’t seek treatment

Many diabetics lose feeling in their feet due to nerve damage. This can mean that they are unaware of minor injuries and often don’t seek treatment until it is too late to avoid an amputation.

Diabetes UK – Putting Feet First

There are currently about 6,000 diabetes-related amputations each year. Following the publication of the study, Diabetes UK is launching a national campaign - Putting Feet First - to highlight the need for diabetics to take footcare more seriously.

Paul Burstow, the Health Minister for England, commenting on the study, says “Diabetics need to get their feet checked regularly and should see their local diabetes multi-disciplinary specialist or GP if they have concerns”.

Access to appropriate specialist care

Access to appropriate specialist care for diabetics to provide effective treatment for conditions that could lead to amputation, if not treated quickly or correctly, is a major issue.

One of the main authors of the study, Prof. William Jeffcoate, a consultant diabetologist, said, “Foot disease is very complicated and a single professional hasn’t necessarily got the skills to manage every aspect of it.” He proposes that specialist teams, including podiatrists, surgeons and specialist nurses should be established in hospitals to provide early access to assessment for patients at risk.

The cost of diabetes-related amputations

According to NHS Diabetes the cost to the NHS for diabetes-related amputations is estimated to be £120m per year. It is said that the cost of setting up such specialist teams would be repaid several times by the savings resulting from reduced amputations.

The human cost of diabetes-related amputations

As well as significantly reducing the financial cost to the NHS, preventing avoidable amputations would mean less patients suffering unnecessary life-changing surgery.

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