Delays in access to specialist podiatry care are preventing patients with diabetic foot from accessing potentially life-saving healthcare, a new report has found.
The National Diabetes Foot Care Audit looked at data relating to patients with the condition - which typically manifests itself in painful ulcers on the feet that are at high risk of becoming infected - from between 2014 and 2016.
It was found that 40 per cent of individuals with diabetic foot ulcers had to wait for two weeks or more to be seen by a podiatrist during this period, with those required to spend as long as two months waiting for an appointment more likely to have ulcers of a severe standard.
As a result, these patients were more likely to be in need of a lower limb amputation in order to save their lives.
The findings of the audit also showed that less than half (49 per cent) of individuals with infected foot ulcers were alive and free from ulcers after 12 weeks, while 66 per cent of the remaining survivors were cured after 24 weeks.
People who referred themselves for specialist foot care typically had the best outcomes, with 56 per cent of self-referral patients healing after 12 weeks in comparison to less than half of those who were referred for podiatry treatment by another healthcare professional.
Professor William Jeffcoate, clinical lead for the audit, commented: "This report highlights inconsistencies in the services available to people with foot disease in diabetes.
"There is also wide variation in the time which elapses before people with new foot disease are assessed by a specialist service. We know that those who wait the longest have worse healing."
With this in mind, the report authors are calling for earlier intervention from specialists in a bid to improve outcomes for patients with diabetic foot, as well as greater awareness of the condition's symptoms to encourage more individuals to refer themselves for treatment.
Written by Angela Newbury
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