THREE diabetes patients have avoided amputations in Swindon in the past three weeks alone, as major strides are made in the treatment of the condition.
The town has historically performed abysmally in diabetics’ treatment with poor information available to sufferers and sporadic screenings from GPs and practicians.
There are 10,700 diabetics over the age of 17 in Swindon. The condition, in which the pancreas fails to produce the insulin the body needs to process sugars, has a number of potential side effects.
One of the worst is neuropathy, a numbing of the lower extremities which makes them vulnerable to damage and infection. Nationally there are 10 lower limb amputations per 100,000 people per year, but in Swindon the figure is 19.
But Swindon’s Clinical Commissioning Group along with campaigners has set out to reverse the alarming trend by launching workshops and training sessions aimed at medical professionals and a Diabetes Network charged with overseeing the delivery of a comprehensive awareness programme.
A pioneering medical procedure performed by vascular specialists from Gloucester has been rolled out to Swindon to restore blood flow to limbs and prevent amputation and in the last three weeks has already helped patients avoid amputations. Stephen MacMahon, of Eldene, a member of the Diabetes Network and campaigner who has fought to improve care ever since his wife Helen was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2002, said the steps taken by the NHS in Swindon had made him hopeful for the future.
“Nearly all amputations are avoidable if you have the proper care, and the cost of an amputation for social services and the person and the family is massive.
“But there has been a change in the system in the last few weeks and they have introduced a process delivered by a vascular team from Gloucester.
“They can now save a limb by putting a bypass in it to reinstate blood flow and stop amputations.
“It should have been practiced here all along but we are now moving forward. It’s looking more hopeful now. Stopping amputations is a priority for us.”
The group is formed of GPS, consultants, dieticians, pharmacists and people involved in diabetes treatment.
He added: “It’s about educating patients on how to help themselves but also medical staff. A letter has gone out in the last two weeks to all practices in Swindon asking GPs to look at people’s feet when they do a diabetic review, which is a checklist of 15 points they need to look at.
“But often they just ask patients how their feet are but don’t check them. It just slips through. With neuropathy, patients have a lack of sensation and it affects their feet. They could have infections or wounds in their feet and not feel anything. And that could lead to amputation.
“The group is looking at ways to improve diabetes care and make sure that the plans are in place. I am more confident things will happen this year.”
To find out more about the course available to patients and for more information about diabetes visit www.swindondiabetes.co.uk.