Double amputee from Aylsham warns of diabetes danger

NHS Norfolk and Waveney has said it sees 'integrated and effective diabetes care' is a key priority for improvement, after a national diabetes charity highlighted there had been a 'concerning amount' of amputations related to diabetes in the area.

Diabetes UK, which launched its Putting Feet First campaign yesterday, has also said the amount of people enduring unnecessary foot amputations across the UK is 'nothing short of a national disgrace.'

The campaign is aiming to reduce diabetes-related amputations by 50pc within five years by calling for improved foot care for people with diabetes.

Research shows that between 2007 and 2010 there were 1.13 major amputations per 1,000 adults with diabetes in the NHS Norfolk area. There were 1.14 major amputations per 1,000 adults with diabetes in the NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney area.

A major amputation is defined as above the ankle and the average in England was 0.99 major amputations.

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Sharon Tillbrook, regional manager for Diabetes UK in the east, said: 'Between 2008/09 and 2010/11, there were 154 amputations related to diabetes in Norfolk and Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCTs – which is a concerning amount.'

She added: 'We need to see an improvement in the way care is organised. More people must get the care they deserve to drastically reduce the number of preventable amputations. We need commissioners, healthcare professionals and people with diabetes to understand what care should be available, and for this care to be in place and delivered in a coordinated way that meets the needs of the patient, when required.

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'Foot ulcers can deteriorate in a matter of hours so failing to refer someone quickly enough can literally be the difference between losing a foot and keeping it.'

Harper Brown, deputy chief executive of NHS Norfolk and Waveney, a primary care trust cluster formed by NHS Norfolk and NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said: 'We have looked at the report from Diabetes UK and will consider the figures given, which indicate that we have too many amputations per 1,000 patients for our population.

'We see integrated and effective diabetes care as a key priority area for service improvement.'

Diabetes UK wants everyone with diabetes to get a thorough, annual foot check. It says all people shown to be at increased risk should be referred to a specialist foot protection team for expert assessment and follow-up, and anyone who develops new foot changes should be referred to a specialist multi-disciplinary foot care team within 24 hours.

The Putting Feet First campaign also wants to highlight to people how important it is they look after their feet and check them regularly.

Paula Gibson, who has had both her legs amputated below the knee, has spoken of how important the Putting Feet First campaign message is.

'It is so important for people with diabetes and everyone to keep checking their feet. If they get any sore or anything they should go to their GP or clinic to get it checked out,' said 37-year-old Paula, from Aylsham, who has two children, Molly, 11, and Ruby, nine. 'You learn to adapt, but if this campaign will prevent people in the future having amputations that would be a wonderful thing. It is vital people are aware.'

Paula has had Type 1 diabetes for 27 years and said everything was fine until summer 2009 when she got a little cut on the second toe in on her left foot.

'It was a really tiny little graze, but I knew with diabetes there can be problems. I went up to the hospital and they had to amputate the toe. It then spread to two other toes which had to be amputated too.'

Doctors used maggots to treat the wound because there was still signs of infection but unfortunately that did not work, and Paula had to have her left leg amputated below the knee and was fitted with a prosthetic leg.

She said: 'I started to walk but I then got a pressure sore on the bottom of my right foot and then my whole foot shattered. In October 2010 my right leg below the knee was also amputated.'

She added: 'When I had both legs amputated it was total devastation really, but you just adapt. I now have both prosthetic legs below the knee and can walk short distances but you cannot wear them all the time.'

Paula praised the diabetic team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. 'The whole team are very good and I would like to say thank you to them,' she said.

• For more about Putting Feet First visit putting-feet-first

Do you have a health story? Call health correspondent Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email

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