Annual foot screening could help spot heart irregularities in people with diabetes
This National Heart Month (February) leading podiatrists across the North East are calling for people with diabetes to go for their annual footcheck, as findings show it could prevent the risk of stroke.
The call comes the results of a three-month pilot foot pulse-test project aimed at increasing the diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation (AF) identified a number of patients with previously undiagnosed AF.
AF is a common heart condition causing an irregular heart rate. It affects around one million people in the UK with a further 474,000 estimated to be living with undiagnosed AF. Almost one in ten people aged over 65 are affected by the condition which commonly displays no symptoms. Without treatment those living with AF are at increased risk of suffering a stroke costing the NHS on average £23,315 per patient.
A report following the Podiatry and Atrial Fibrillation Case Finding scheme, revealed that the region’s NHS could benefit from potential cost savings in excess of £500,000.
During the initiative, 45 podiatrists from across North Durham, Darlington and Durham Dales Easington and Sedgefield CCGs were trained to spot heart irregularities when taking pulse readings of diabetic patients’ feet during their annual foot screening appointments. This means more podiatrists from the region are now upskilled in this potentially life-saving check.
Leading the Podiatry and Atrial Fibrillation Case Finding project Linda Hicks, Podiatrist at Country Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust, said:
Over the course of the three-month pilot, 5,000 diabetic patients had their feet pulse-tested across the North East. The project uncovered that for every 500 patients who had their feet checked, one new case of AF could be identified.
Philip Teasdale, age 57, from Bishop Auckland was diagnosed with Type2 Diabetes. Following an initial check-up with his GP, Philip was asked to make an appointment with his GP surgery’s podiatrist.
Public Health England estimates that 1.36 million people in England are living with AF, giving a current prevalence in the population of around 2.4% - with just 1.6% of those having been diagnosed.
The Podiatry and AF case finding project is part of a wider AF program run by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) in conjunction with the Northern England Clinical Networks. It aims to reduce the number of strokes and deaths in the region by treating AF as early as possible.
Dr Rahul Nayar, Chair of the Northern Diabetes Footcare Network, Diabetes Clinical Lead for Northern England Clinical Networks, NHSE & Consultant Diabetologist at City Hospitals, Sunderland, said:
The project has also gained recognition from the AF Association who honored the program of work with its Healthcare Pioneers Award - a prestigious accolade given to examples of truly innovative best practice covering identification, diagnosis, management, treatment and care of patients with atrial fibrillation.
National Heart Month takes place every February and is organized by the British Heart Foundation. National Heart Month encourages people to make small changes towards a healthier lifestyle.
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