Diabetes care steps up with opening of new foot unit

The president of charity Diabetes UK, Richard Lane OBE, officially opened the Imperial Foot Unit at St Mary’s Hospital last week.

The new purpose-build unit consists of five bedded bays and an adjoining out-patients suite with six rooms. It will provide rapid access to an increased number of multi-disciplinary clinics where diabetes patients with foot problems can see a range of specialists, including diabetes consultants, podiatrists, vascular and orthopaedic surgeons, microbiologists, orthotists, dietitians, and nurses, all in one place.

Providing people with diabetes-related foot problems rapid access to treatment by a specialist multi-disciplinary team has been shown to promote faster healing and fewer amputations, saving money and lives.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, diabetes consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and National Clinical Director for Obesity and Diabetes at NHS England, told the audience of 20 staff and patients that delivering diabetes foot care in this way had been shown to reduce amputations. Prof Valabhji is pictured third right with, left to right, Mr Lane and Professor Robert Elkeles with unit staff. 

Prof Valabhji said: “Amputations among our diabetes patients have fallen by 40 per cent as a result of rapid access and multi-disciplinary working. We hope this will benefit even more people from a wider area with the greater capacity that we now have within the service. There will be greater opportunity for our patients to see all the experts in the same place at the same time enabling our clinicians to put together a comprehensive care plan for each patient.”

The new unit is also linked to an established diabetes research programme with the Trust’s academic partner, Imperial College London.

Mr Lane, who unveiled a plaque at the unit’s entrance to mark the opening, has lived with type 1 diabetes for many years and was one of the first people in Britain to have pancreatic islet stem cell transplants. He said: “I want to congratulate you on this new unit. The model of care in this new unit at St Mary’s Hospital is brilliant and the sooner we have more diabetes foot clinics like this around the country, the better.

“There’s a vital need for specialist care – it’s all about having the right care at the right time, quick access and partnership working between primary and secondary care and specialists.”

The unit is part of the Professor Robert Elkeles Outpatient Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology which was named after Prof Elkeles at the opening. Prof Elkeles, a consultant diabetologist at the Trust and researcher at Imperial College London for many years, said: “This is a remarkable unit which delivers really good care. It’s a huge honour to have it named after me.”

Patient Brian Whittaker, a former butcher from Edgware, attended the opening. 

He said: “I have been looked after by staff at St Mary’s Hospital for diabetes for 28 years. All the team are amazing and there are people in this room who I owe my life to. The new unit is fantastic for patients – it’s a one-stop shop where you get all the care in the same place, give your bloods, see the dietitian, and see the podiatrist. You are looked after so well.”