Every two hours in England, someone loses their leg because of a wound that hasn’t healed. To help people understand the importance of looking after their legs, the first national Legs Matter week is being held from 3 to 7 June to urge people to ‘stand up’ to one of the UK’s biggest health challenges.
Each year, it is estimated that more than a million people in the UK suffer from serious leg and foot conditions and delayed diagnosis and treatment can cause unnecessary suffering, disability, amputation and even death.
Now a group of the UK’s leading lower limb clinicians have joined forces to encourage people to check their legs and feet and to get medical help fast.
Kate Williams, Wound Clinical Nurse Specialist at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust (LCH), is urging people to play their part by checking their own and others’ legs and feet for 10 possible problems including swollen, tender legs or sores that won’t heal and to take action with the ‘Legs Matter Pledge’ and by ‘Sharing Your One Big Thing’ – one important fact people wished they had known earlier about leg and foot health.
She said “There are hundreds of people in Leeds suffering with lower leg and feet disorders, many of which are life changing. These conditions are often overlooked by patients, carers and clinicians.
“We want people to check their own and others’ legs and feet and to speak to a pharmacist, nurse, podiatrist or GP if they are concerned. Getting early treatment makes all the difference.”
According to Dr Gordon Sinclair, clinical chair of NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), “foot and leg problems can affect people of all ages and can take many forms – from varicose veins to swollen legs and leg ulcers that start with a simple knock.
“If you have a persistent problem or a wound that isn’t healing, it’s important to get it checked and treated quickly so it doesn’t become a more serious health issue. Older people can be particularly susceptible, so if a relative or neighbour seems to be struggling with their feet or legs, try to persuade them to talk to their GP practice or pharmacist.”
Costing the NHS up to £5.3 billion annually, leg and foot ulcers, oedema (a failure of the lymphatic system), narrowing of the arteries and other serious problems need to be treated quickly and correctly to reduce the risk of non-healing wounds, secondary health problems and deteriorating health. An NHS England study estimates that having effective care early, reduces leg ulcer healing times from around two years to just a few months and is 10 times cheaper. But many patients suffer unnecessarily for several years due to a lack of knowledge and not accessing the right care.
Leading clinicians from The Tissue Viability Society, The British Lymphology Society, Accelerate CIC, The College of Podiatry, The Society of Vascular Nurses, The Lindsay Leg Club Foundation, Foot in Diabetes UK and The Leg Ulcer Forum have formed Legs Matter and want to ensure that anyone with a lower leg or foot problem understands their condition and gets the urgent care and support that they need.
As part of this, they have produced an online checklist for people, including health care professionals, to recognise the signs and symptoms of lower leg and foot problems.