Report highlights need for early intervention for diabetic foot ulcers

Published: 02 Mar 2017

A report published today finds that early intervention is important in the management of diabetic foot disease, with people who receive expert care most quickly having the best outcomes.

It also reports that the basic framework for effective prevention and management of diabetic foot disease in England and Wales is often missing.

It is estimated that between five and seven cent of people with diabetes will have a diabetic foot ulcer at some point in their lives, at an estimated cost of £935 million to the NHS.

Read the full report here

The National Diabetes Foot Care Audit (NDFA) 2014-2016, published today by NHS Digital and Diabetes UK, collected data on 11,000 individuals with acute diabetic foot ulcers. It is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership as part of the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP).

Just over half (54 per cent) of commissionersin England and Wales were able to provide information regarding the structure of foot care services in their area. Of commissioners that responded, 43 per cent of commissioners confirmed that all three of the nationally recommended care structures were in place in their area – training for routine diabetic foot examinations, a foot protection service pathway and a pathway for assessment within 24 hours if necessary.

173 specialist foot care services in England and Wales took part in the 2014-2016 audit, covering more than 11,000 patients with 13,000 ulcer episodes between 14 July 2014 and 8 April 2016.

People who referred themselves directly to a specialist foot care service – probably because they had previously received treatment there – had the highest healing rates after 12 weeks (56 per cent) compared to between 32 per cent and 48 per cent in groups referred by a health professional.

Other findings from the audit include:

  • Excluding self-referral, two fifths (40 per cent) of people with foot ulcers wait for two or more weeks before being seen for a referral by a specialist foot care service.
  • People with ulcers that wait two or more months to be seen by the specialist foot care service are more likely to have severe ulcers when assessed (58 per cent of ulcers were severe compared to between 34 and 51 per cent in other groups).
  • Half (49 per cent) of all people with ulcers were alive and ulcer-free at 12 weeks, and two-thirds (66 per cent) were alive and ulcer-free at 24 weeks.

Professor William Jeffcoate, Consultant Diabetologist and Clinical Lead for the audit said:

“This report highlights inconsistences 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.”