The diabetes amputation postcode lottery

In April of last year Diabetes UK released information that revealed amputations related to the disease were not showing any signs of improvement, despite concerted efforts by the charity to raise awareness of the potential for amputations as a result of diabetes. This is something that Diabetes UK categorically stated was ‘totally unacceptable,’ as the NHS data that the charity used indicated that for every 1,000 people with diabetes, 2.6 were going through the incredibly painful process of amputation. What was most telling about the information was the fact that this was much worse in some areas than others.

There are over 100 lower limb amputations in the UK every week and someone with diabetes is 20 times more likely to have to undergo a lower limb amputation than someone who has not developed the disease. Perhaps the most disturbing statistic is the fact that around half of those who have a lower limb amputation may die within two years of the operation. So, amputation is something that the we should be working to prevent at all costs.

According to the figures from Diabetes UK, the risk of amputation is considerably increased depending on where you live in the country. So, for example, those who live in Fareham and Gosport are seven times more likely to have a lower limb amputation than someone who has diabetes and is living in Brent in London. These statistics clearly show that the difference lies in the standard of care and the charity has identified a number of ways in which clinics and hospitals are failing in their duty to take care of those with diabetes and prevent a situation where an amputation is the only answer. These include:

  • a lack of an annual foot checks being carried out, or a situation where the check is carried out but the patient is not informed about their risk status at the end of it.
  • referral to specialists taking far too long – foot condition can deteriorate fast, sometimes within a matter of hours, and so the speed of referrals makes an enormous difference.
  • many hospitals simply don’t have specialist foot care teams or referrals are not being made to them at the requisite speed.
  • the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines recommend that any patient with diabetes should have their feet checked during a stay in hospital but in many cases this simply doesn’t happen and so problems are missed.

According to Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, “Given the appallingly high levels of preventable diabetes-related amputations, it is hugely disappointing that these latest figures have not shown a reduction in the rate. It means we are continuing to see thousands of people losing their feet when better healthcare could have prevented this from happening.” Things have become so bad that the government has even committed to halving the amputation rate by the end of 2017.

Diabetes doesn’t have to mean amputation but this does depend on a patient receiving the right care at the right time – and this doesn’t always happen. If you’ve suffered an amputation and you don’t believe you were properly treated then we might be able to help – contact our amputation compensation solicitors for more information.