More worryingly, it is estimated 80% of those amputations are avoidable if they are promptly detected. Even more worryingly, there are huge variances in the standard of care provided across parts of the country, with certain NHS trusts 10 times more likely to amputate than others.
Diabetes UK has called for the NHS and the government to improve treatment for diabetics in order to reduce the number of amputations required after it was revealed that over 20 amputations per day were being performed in England. Studies have revealed that 80% of these amputations begin as foot ulcers which are usually treatable if diagnosed and treated promptly.
Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK said "the fact that the total number of amputations is continuing to rise is a huge concern. We know the devastating impact they have on people's lives as well as the huge cost to the NHS, yet we are not seeing action happening quickly enough across all areas of the country to address this.
We have seen some areas making real efforts to improve the poor state of diabetes foot care, but these figures are a stark reminder that here is still so much more to be done, especially with regard to significant variations from GP practices and between different health areas. It's a travesty that good quality foot care is a postcode lottery. People need to be getting the right care in the right place at the right time now."
Unfortunately the latest numbers do not come as a surprise. Previously unpublished figures from Public Health England show that 18,080 patients with diabetes underwent an amputation of some sort between 2007 and 2010 – an average of 16 per day. These rose to 21,125 in 2011-14, equating to 19 per day. Further statistics also show the number of diabetics in the UK rising to over 4,000,000.
It seems to me a three stage approach is required in order to tackle the rising number of amputations.
Prevention rather than cure is the first thing that comes to mind. With 90% of diabetics suffering from Type 2 diabetes, which is often associated with lifestyle and diet, more needs to be done to encourage healthier lifestyles. Whilst the government has announced a new "sugar tax" this is no more than a starting point. Diabetes UK provide tips on their website for how to try to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes here.
The second stage must be to ensure that diabetic patients are aware that a simple foot ulcer can have devastating consequences if not treated soon enough. Finally, and as Chris Askew comments, more needs to be done to ensure that the quality of care provided to diabetics is not only consistent but consistently high throughout the country.
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