Why are Quick Referrals so Important for People with Diabetes Foot Symptoms?

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People with diabetes are at more risk of developing foot conditions. These can have severe consequences and can be fatal if they’re not treated quickly. This is why doctors have certain responsibilities when it comes to referring you to the correct, effective treatment as quickly as possible.

If your condition worsened because your care fell short of standard, and you didn’t receive a timely referral or diagnosis, see how our Medical Negligence lawyers could help you make a claim for compensation.

Medical professionals are mandated to refer people who are presenting symptoms of diabetes for further tests, or to see a specialist. People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have a high risk of developing problems in their feet because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, causing reduced blood flow to the feet and legs. It’s critical that people with these symptoms are referred quickly, because if their condition is left untreated, it can lead to infection, sepsis and even death.

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Diabetes can lead to neuropathy (numbness and nerve damage), so you might not feel symptoms of pain in your feet and carry on your life as normal until your joints and bones begin to change shape. You might continue to put weight on your foot and it could flatten.

When it comes to diabetic foot problems, there are specific NICE guidelines (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), which require GPs to make an appropriate referral within 24 hours. Healthcare units must make sure they have integrated and interdisciplinary services in place, so your problems can be escalated and communicated effectively.

Doctors are responsible for making patients aware of the risk of developing foot problems if they have diabetes. Medical professionals should look for evidence of:

      • Neuropathy (nerve damage)
      • Limb ischaemia
      • Ulceration
      • Callus
      • Infection and/or inflammation
      • Deformity
      • Gangrene
      • Charcot foot
      • Osteomyelitis
      • Sepsis
      • Bilateral sciatica/Cauda equina syndrome

Doctors should be aware of complications that can arise in diabetic people. They should consider questioning patients more and may recommend you have check-ups more regularly to encourage early diagnosis.

Your doctor should make you aware of who to contact in an emergency, and give you basic foot care advice and general information about managing your diabetes and blood glucose control.

Which Specialists Should Doctors Refer you to?

In the event of diabetes symptoms, you should be referred to a multidisciplinary foot care service where possible, within 24 hours of examination. Healthcare providers have a responsibility to make sure they have specialists with skills in the following areas:

      • Diabetology
      • Podiatry
      • Diabetes specialist nursing
      • Vascular surgery
      • Microbiology
      • Orthopaedic surgery
      • Biomechanics and orthoses
      • Interventional radiology
      • Casting

If this isn’t available (for example, it’s out of hours), you should be referred immediately to acute services, and the multidisciplinary foot care service should be informed.

Problems with diagnoses and referrals

Sadly, delays, misdiagnoses and poor treatment of diabetes is not uncommon in England and Wales. The NHS is under huge pressure due to budget constraints and the aftermath of Covid-19. This often leads to people with serious diabetes symptoms getting telephone consultations with GPs, when really they should be examined in-person, as soon as possible. If examinations do happen, sometimes they aren’t thorough or done by an appropriate specialist with the right training.

Sometimes, medical professionals fail to act upon abnormal results, prescribe appropriate medicines or follow up and review patient notes correctly. Covid-19 made these problems worse - GP practices saw as few patients and possible, and people were encouraged not to attend A&E.

What Could Happen if You’re Not Referred Properly for your Diabetes Symptoms?

If you’re not referred to the appropriate specialist or care unit, or a doctor does not refer you fast enough or fails to recognise your symptoms, the consequences can be serious and can cause permanent damage and distortions in your feet.

Mismanagement of foot problems can lead to amputation – in diabetic people, almost 9600 leg, toe or foot amputations are performed each year – that equates to 185 a week. Complications can even lead to ulcers that don’t heal, and can be even more extreme, leading to blindness and kidney (renal) failure.

That’s why it’s important to seek help and make sure you’re referred quickly because of the way these issues can escalate with diabetes – it’s important not to overlook minor symptoms like blisters and wounds, which might not seem urgent at the time. In order to sue for compensation, we must be able to prove that your GP or medical professional was negligent in some way, so it’s vital that you have a good foot care routine, perform regular checks and flag issues to the doctor early.

How We Can Help if you Didn’t Get the Right Diabetes Treatment

Our dedicated Medical Negligence solicitors have years of experience helping people out who had a misdiagnosis based on diabetes symptoms, or complications resulting from a delayed or inappropriate referral. You can get in touch with our specialists for a Free Case Assessment. We’ll listen to your situation and give you free expert legal advice, letting you know the best way forward.

We’ve recovered thousands of pounds over the years for people who had inadequate care for their diabetes. Your settlement could compensate for the suffering you’ve caused and help you access further care and support you might need.

We can often take your claim forward on a No Win No Fee basis – ask us for details.

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