Painful foot problems suffered by people with arthritis are seriously neglected and are subject to huge and unacceptable regional variations, according to a team of foot care experts.
Only a quarter of patients who need foot healthcare have adequate access to NHS services, and only half of all hospital rheumatology departments in the UK are able to access adequate basic foot care services for their patients.
For many people, foot problems mean isolation, inability to work and shop, and increased dependency on social and health services.
"People with musculoskeletal problems often have complex needs, and it is easy for foot health problems to be overlooked," explained Dr Redmond, Arthritis Research Campaign senior lecturer in musculoskeletal disease at the University of Leeds.
Now the team of experts led by Dr Redmond has produced a set of widely agreed national standards in a bid to provide better and more standardised foot healthcare around the country.
"We know that podiatry/chiropody services are patchy, and that eligibility can be a problem, but foot healthcare can be provided by different members of the healthcare team, including podiatrists, consultants, GPs, nurses, orthotists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists," said Dr Redmond.
"The standards are not about professional boundaries, they are about addressing the needs of a patient group with a high level of foot problems. When people are able to access professional care relevant to their needs they have a better quality of life and reduced demand for more complex and expensive health services. At the moment that is simply not happening around the country."
The standards of care for people with musculoskeletal foot health problems are to be distributed widely to all primary care trusts, GPs, and all those involved in planning, delivering and receiving foot care. Best practice examples are provided throughout to illustrate how they can be put in practice.
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