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We should take diabetic foot ulcers more seriously

We should take diabetic foot ulcers more seriously

Professor Paul Chadwick

Today is World Diabetes Day. The statistics surrounding this condition and its impact worldwide and in the UK are startling. By 2030 the number of people with diabetes is expected to reach 322 million worldwide, and in the UK it is expected that five million people will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2025. Today that figure is an estimated 4.6m people – so it is vital that we use World Diabetes Day to remind ourselves of the critical role podiatrists play in diabetes care.

I gave an interview published today by the Guardian, making the point that we should take diabetic foot ulcers more seriously. The fact is that when a person with diabetes gets a foot ulcer, they have around a 50% chance of dying in the next five years. We can only address this with fast access to a multidisciplinary team, which includes podiatrists, to ensure the right management to improve outcomes. The right podiatric care and education for those living with diabetes really can save limbs, and in many cases lives.

Part of our new strategic plan at the College is to promote podiatrists as part of the public health agenda, which centres on maintaining health and preventing problems before they become acute. Podiatrists are ideally placed to talk to their patients about general issues with health, and may often be able to detect undiagnosed health problems, and refer on where necessary.

Learning opportunities

One of the ways to ensure we, as podiatrists, retain our essential position as public health guardians is staying up to date with the best evidence-based practice. Lifelong learning is a mindset that commits the learner to strategies that add new and emerging information, knowledge and practices. For us as podiatrists, continual professional development is mandatory for both safe and effective practice and for maintaining HCPC registration.

With just a week to go before the College’s annual conference, I would like to flag some of the opportunities at conference for members to develop their skills and learning. I am looking forward to many of the sessions at conference – in fact it’s proving hard to organise my diary around the packed schedule – so hopefully this will be of use to other delegates! 

There are three sessions devoted to diabetes. The first is a debate around whether podiatrists can prevent lower-limb amputation. Two of the people I admire the most in the diabetes and vascular world, Prof Keith Harding CBE and Mr Naseer Ahmad, are going head to head in what promises to be a lively, thought provoking and entertaining debate.

The second, chaired by Professor Sarah Curran, comprises a series of short diabetes papers, highlighting the latest research in this area. Summaries of these research papers will be available after the conference for anyone not able to attend.

Finally, there is a diabetes and vascular session, which I am chairing, which promises to be packed with pearls of wisdom around prevention, including how we can prevent re-ulceration in the diabetic foot. 

Go to our conference pages for more information.

Away from conference it’s also worth flagging two key pieces of work we’re doing. 

Longer term learning opportunities include the College’s Foot in Diabetes module, a week-long course for podiatrists interested in gaining a greater understanding of foot and lower limb complications associated with diabetes. Courses start next year in London, Norwich or Salford. You can book your tickets via Eventbrite.

The College has also joined the Legs Matter coalition to help raise awareness and understanding of lower leg and foot conditions so that people can recognise symptoms early, and reduce the incidence of foot ulcers and amputation. See www.legsmatter.org.

As we build towards our conference it’s timely to reflect on diabetes care and the learning opportunities that conference (and our ongoing work) provide. Together as a profession we have an important role in helping to address the diabetes crisis. I look forward to joining my fellow College members to look more into this next week. 

See you at conference!

Professor Paul Chadwick is Clinical Director at the College of Podiatry. Paul is a Consultant Podiatrist and a leading specialist in the diabetic foot and has extensive experience in this area of podiatry