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Welcome to Foot Health month 2019 from CEO

Foot Health Month 2019: our time to shine

Steve Jamieson, College of Podiatry CEO

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We begin this year’s Foot Health Month with the release of polling data that looks at how people’s shoe-buying habits are affecting the health of their feet. The evidence shows that large numbers of people are not having their feet measured, or even trying on shoes, before buying – no doubt fuelled largely by the growth of online shopping and so-called ‘fast fashion’. We’ve seen an association between this and heightened levels of foot pain and complications. See press release here.

None of this will be surprising to podiatrists, of course, but it illustrates one of the big challenges we face as a profession working to improve foot health in the UK. We’ve been talking for years about the need for proper shoe fitting and other ways in which people can avoid causing problems for their feet. Carrying these messages is a key part of our work as a profession supporting public health. Foot Health Month provides an annual occasion on which to get out, meet the public and show what podiatrists can do to support healthy lifestyles.

We’re excited about the activities planned for the next month. Our poster and leaflet packs have been requested at a faster rate than ever this year, so we’re anticipating some great events to engage local people with podiatry services and practices. After the success of last year’s photo competition we’re repeating this, with prizes available for the best images we receive via social media or email from people taking part in Foot Health Month. We will also be keeping the conversation going on social media where we will be sharing content throughout the month and look forward to engaging with members and the public about foot health and the essential role of podiatrists.

This year’s Foot Health Month comes at a time of very great change in the health system. The last few months have seen the NHS’s Long Term Plan published, which has identified diabetes care as a major priority for the NHS, and the new GPs’ contract, which for the first time acknowledges specifically the need for other professions to step up and support GPs with the huge and growing burden of delivering healthcare within primary care. With the advent of ‘first point of contact’ practitioners we see a huge opportunity for podiatrists to get involved and play a bigger role.

In research led by Professor Cathy Bowen, which is due to be published in academic journals later this year but was featured as a summary in Podiatry Now in December, it was found about 3% of all visits to the GP during 2010-14 were for issues relating to foot health. That may sound like a small proportion, but it accounts for over half a million GP engagements with over 300,000 patients. In the vast majority of these cases, podiatrists would have been perfectly suited to seeing these patients. Of the 2000 people surveyed in the polling we ran ahead of Foot Health Month this year, 48% had sought treatment or advice on a foot health problem – an indication of the scale of the toll of foot health on people in the UK. Of those, 56% went first to their GP, against 26% who visited the podiatrist.

The best care for all people must mean seeing the right professional first time. How do we narrow this gap and ensure that people are seeing podiatrists when they need to? Part of the solution must be public awareness. So, this Foot Health Month, we are placing information on foot health into GPs’ waiting rooms around the country – to try to raise awareness of podiatry and what it can do for these patients. Ideally, our foot health advice and tips will help people avoid problems in the first place, but for those that do need support, we hope that next time they will seek out a podiatrist as their first port of call.

As Foot Health Month kicks off, let’s look forward to an exciting month of working together across podiatry to raise awareness of the profession and all that it does for the UK’s health.