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Podiatric Surgery: A Serious Matter

I have just settled a very large claim after foot surgery was botched by a podiatric surgeon.

Many people have never heard of podiatric surgeons. Even people (my client included) who are having their feet operated on may not know what podiatric surgeons are. So who are they? And what do they do?

Orthopaedic surgeons are trained doctors who specialise in bone and muscles – the main physical structures of the body. They will have been to medical school, undergone a long training process, qualified as a doctor and then specialised in orthopaedics.

If you break a bone they will treat you. Podiatric surgeons are chiropodists or podiatrists who treat disorders of the foot. Chiropodists will do minor skin surgery, removing corns and ingrowing toenails. They are not trained doctors or members of the Royal College of Surgeons (the professional body governing surgeons).

Some chiropodists go on to study surgery to the foot and are qualified to do some procedures. However they would not have expertise in operating on any other area of the body.

The NHS employs about 80 podiatric surgeons. Some are given the title ‘Consultant’, which can confuse patients who think they are being treated by a doctor.Surgery to the foot can be quite complex. A common operation is to correct bunions, which often also involves an ‘osteotomy’ to straighten toes.

There are numerous bones in the foot and because they bear the body’s whole weight, it is important that any surgery is done well. I have dealt with claims arising from surgery to the foot which goes wrong.

One of the most serious of these claims was against a podiatric surgeon although I am handling an alarming number of claims against orthopaedic surgeons. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with podiatric surgeons but it concerns me that patients may not realise who is treating them.

Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.