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Paul Sankey: Diabetes - An Increasingly Worrying Issue

I was surprised to read in a medical report that a GP had only come across Charcot's Foot once in 26 years. It is strange as along with my colleagues I am currently handling several claims following delays in diagnosis of this potentially disabling condition. Perhaps that has misled us into thinking it more common than it is.One of the complications of diabetes is that poor blood supply to the feet can both reduce the ability to feel pain and lead to damage to the bones of the foot. Those bones can gradually collapse without the patient feeling pain and realising anything is wrong. In one of my cases a woman did not notice anything amiss until she saw a fragment of bone protruding through the skin whilst she was in the shower.The condition needs to be recognised early for treatment to be effective although it is not always easy to diagnose from x-rays. The foot must be immobilised in plaster. It may be necessary to operate to reduce fractures. Care will then probably need to be lifelong. GPs should urgently refer diabetic patients with swollen, ulcerated or discoloured feet to diabetic foots clinics – and I am dealing with claims where they did not. Specialists who should see the condition more often than GPs – orthopaedic surgeons, physicians and diabetic specialists – should be able to recognise the signs. Again I have cases where they have failed to do so.The consequences of getting it wrong can be very serious and there is a high risk of amputation and serious disability.The incidence of diabetes is increasing rapidly. Expectations are that levels may almost double by 2020. Charcot’s foot is therefore likely to become a more common condition. I suspect that it will not be another 26 years before that GP sees his next case and I am quite sure that it will not be long before I am again scouring a patients medical records for missed signs of the developing condition.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, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.