Healthcare professionals have reported a worrying surge in cases of people presenting with advanced foot disease at hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least one diabetes related amputation occurs every hour in England and Diabetes UK is urging people with diabetes to seek medical attention as soon as they start to develop problems with their feet.
The charity is concerned that people with diabetes are either delaying seeking help because they are afraid of contracting coronavirus, or they don’t know where to get help due to services not operating as usual.
Some people are presenting to foot care services at a point that their foot condition is so severe that they require immediate admission under surgical teams Jodie Buckingham, Lead Podiatrist at Oxford University Hospitals
Diabetes UK has learned of people presenting at hospitals needing to go straight to major amputation.
Nicholas O’Brien, from Chipping Norton was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, although his GP thinks he may have it the condition for a lot longer. In May, he developed a small verruca on his foot, which began to get worse.
The 68-year-old said: “I was hesitant to seek help, especially with everything that has been happening this year. But once I did, I received such a high standard of treatment – it was almost like there was no pandemic. I am not quite over my fears of hospitals, but I cannot speak more highly of the care and support I have received since my operation and wished I had sought help sooner.
“I want to urge everyone with diabetes to take good care of their feet and to seek help if, and when they need it – you can potentially save yourself from a lot of pain.”
Dan Howarth, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said: “It is perfectly understandable that people are afraid to seek medical attention, but the consequences of this cannot be underestimated, and clinicians are telling us that people with diabetes are not getting the help they need.
“It is crucial that people with diabetes know how important it is to seek medical attention if they spot any signs of foot problems. A matter of hours can make the difference between losing and keeping a foot, or worse. The NHS is and remains open, and the health service is still there for you.”
Jodie Buckingham, Lead Podiatrist at Oxford University Hospitals, said: “Over the past few months, I have seen for myself the sudden surge of people with diabetes and advanced foot disease being admitted to hospital or requiring the input of acute foot services. This experience is echoed by many of my colleagues around the country. Unfortunately, some people are presenting to foot care services at a point that their foot condition is so severe that they require immediate admission under surgical teams.”
Professor Gerry Rayman MBE, GIRFT Diabetes Co-lead and Diabetes UK inpatient clinical lead, said: “We know that the quicker people with diabetes seek help with a foot problem, the better their chance of successful outcomes and the less likely it is that they will require hospital admission or foot surgery. We understand that it is a worrying time and people are keen to avoid hospitals and health care settings.
“But I really do want to reassure people that foot care services are running and stringent measures are in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission in these settings; we are here and we want to see those with a foot problem as early as possible. Please seek help if you are worried or notice any changes to your feet.”