NHS England could significantly cut its spending on diabetes foot care by introducing or rearranging specialist foot services, according to a leading charity.
Diabetes UK says £250 million a year – a quarter of NHS England's diabetes foot care spending – could be saved by reducing the number of foot ulcers in people with diabetes.
Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said: "There are more than 20 leg, foot or toe amputations each day and most of these result from a diabetic foot ulcer. Today, around 60-75,000 people with diabetes experience a foot ulcer. That's roughly the same as the whole population of Boston, Lincolnshire.
"NHS Commissioners should be spending money on preventing and treating ulcers rather than on managing their extreme consequences. And prompt treatment for a person with a foot ulcer can prevent both the personal and economic cost of an amputation."
The charity found NHS Trusts that introduced or rearranged specialist foot services – whether in a hospital or community setting – improved the prevention and treatment of foot problems for people with diabetes.
However, Diabetes UK found that at present many people with diabetes in England either have to wait a long time for specialist foot care or find the service doesn't exist at all.
After making foot services more effective, improving care for people with diabetes-related foot conditions, the charity estimated three NHS Trusts – Somerset, Brent and Ipswich – saved more than £1.5 million between them in just one year.
Somerset hospitals and GPs set up a 'diabetes foot pathway', giving specialist help to people with diabetes via a 24-hour referral system and specialist training for podiatrists, nurses and doctors.
Following its introduction major amputations in Somerset fell by 43 percent, preventing an estimated 19 amputations per year and saving approximately £926,000, almost six times the cost of improving the service.
At least £1 in every £140 of NHS expenditure in England is spent on foot care for people with diabetes and most of that money is spent on treating foot ulcers.