Action urged over alarming variations in diabetes-related amputation rates

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Action urged over alarming variations in diabetes-related amputation rates

9th March 2012

medical negligence expert has called for an urgent investigation into why amputation rates for diabetes patients in England can differ so widely from region to region.

Victoria Gofton, an associate at Fentons Solicitors LLP, spoke out after a study published in the specialist medical journal Diabetologia revealed significant regional variations in the levels of specialist care diabetes patients were receiving across the country.

“I’ve had a number of clients with diabetic-related conditions who had to have amputations because the primary care treatment they received prior to them being admitted to hospital simply wasn’t up to scratch,” said Victoria.

“Amputation rates in some parts of England are alarmingly high - in some cases as much as 10 times higher than in others,” she added. “Obviously, having one of your limbs amputated is devastating but to have this decision influenced on where you happen to live is fundamentally wrong.”

Lower-leg amputation rates for local health trusts across the country were researched and compared over a three year period. The study revealed gaping variations in both minor and major - defined as any amputation above the ankle - amputation rates, and concluded that diabetes patients were 20 times more likely to have to undergo an amputation than those without the disease.

“Foot disease of the kind so prevalent amongst those with diabetes is extremely complicated and not all medical staff possess the relevant knowledge or are fully trained to recognise symptoms or effectively deal with every aspect of the disease,” said Victoria.

“However, there is significant concern that so many hospitals in the country simply do not have the specialist podiatrists, surgeons and footcare nurses needed to meet demand. Previous research reports how an astonishing 80 per cent of diabetes amputations could in fact be avoided. The government and NHS need to do more to ensure the availability of such teams so that more staff are equipped to supply the kind of expert care and regular checks that these patients need.”

A recent NHS report put the annual cost of diabetes-related footcare at £650m with the cost of amputations alone - of which there are approximately 6,000 in England annually - at £120m.

“The government needs to take diabetes-related footcare more seriously,” said Victoria. “Foot amputations dramatically hinder a person’s quality of life and it’s a disgrace that so many people are needlessly losing their limbs and that the quality of care they receive should in any way be influenced by their postcode. More needs to be done to raise awareness of diabetes and the associated risks of foot disease, so that these numbers can be reduced, training can be improved and more specialist diabetes teams can be made available across the NHS.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to medical negligence. If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claim questionnaire.

Read more: BBC