A new report from Diabetes UK shows that there were 26,378 lower limb amputations related to diabetes in England from 2014 to 2017, marking an increase of 19.4% from the previous three years.
The high blood sugar levels of patients with type I and type II diabetes means that they are at increased risk of developing problems in their feet, which can damage blood vessels and affect how blood flows to the feet and legs.
Due to this, someone living with diabetes is 20 times more likely to have to undergo an amputation than someone without the condition.
The last three years have seen a 26.5% rise in minor lower limb amputations - defined as below the ankle, and a more gradual increase in the number of major lower limb amputations, defined as below the knee, at 4.1%.
Dan Howarth, head of care at Diabetes UK, said: “The shocking number of lower limb amputations related to diabetes grows year on year. An amputation, regardless of whether it’s defined as minor or major, is devastating and life-changing. A minor amputation can still involve losing a whole foot.
“To reduce the number of amputations related to diabetes, we are calling on NHS England to maintain the Diabetes Transformation Fund beyond 2019. Many diabetes amputations are avoidable, but the quality of footcare for people living with diabetes varies significantly across England. Transformation funding since 2017 is working and will help to reduce these variations, but much work still needs to be done.”
The charity is urging that people living with diabetes know how to look after their feet, and check them regularly to look out for the signs of foot problems.
Kate Walker, director of the Diabetes Safety Organisation, said of the statistics:
"In addition to the recommendations made by Diabetes UK around the NHS improving access to specialist teams, employers have a duty of care to provide an additional level of support to sufferers.
"This duty should reasonably ensure that employees and those affected by what the employer does are not exposed to risk to their health and safety, especially within heavy industry where physical strain is more evident. If diabetes related symptoms in the workplace are ignored or side-lined by employers, they will commit a criminal offence and face a significant fine.
"It is high time that employers started to understand the risk that their employees and they themselves face and work together to eliminate it and reduce the effects of ignoring a problem centrally."