St Helens campaigner meets with MP about diabetes-related amputations

A St Helens resident and campaigner, who had their toe amputated as a result of diabetes, has met with Marie Rimmer MP, calling on her to urge the Government to put an end to avoidable diabetes-related amputations which have reached an all-time high in England.

George Connolly, aged 74, and Marie Rimmer MP met at an event (15th July) held by Diabetes UK in Westminster, where they saw 135 shoes on display to represent the number of diabetes-related amputations taking place each week in England. The shoes had been donated by people who had had an amputation, supporters and celebrities and each shoe had a personal message attached.


The figures – which reveal amputations are at an all-time high – were calculated using new Public Health England data and show that the annual number of diabetes-related amputations in England is now more than 7,000, compared to the previous figure of 6,677. Yet, with good diabetes care and footcare, up to 80% of these amputations can be avoided.


The figures show that despite a big focus on preventing these amputations, the amputation rate for major and minor amputations combined in people with diabetes has stayed the same. And because of the sharp increase in the number of people with diabetes in the past 20 years, the number of diabetes-related amputations is rising.


There is however some positive news as the major amputation rate (classed as amputations above the ankle) has decreased slightly since Diabetes UK launched the Putting Feet First campaign in 2012.


George said: “Living with the impact of an amputation day in and day out, I was pleased to meet with Ms Rimmer as it gave me the chance to raise my concern about the increasing number of diabetes-related amputations taking place in England.


“Beyond living with diabetes, I have had to cope with the impact of my amputation, a devastating complication that is a direct result of my diabetes along with other complications including problems with my circulation and eyesight.


“Managing diabetes can be a daily struggle in itself, and far too many people with the condition go on to develop devastating health complications such as amputations. This is why I have directly appealed to Ms Rimmer to raise awareness of the issue and help ensure that the Government and the NHS to do more to tackle the problem of diabetes-related amputation by improving diabetes footcare.”


Marie Rimmer MP said: “George shared with me his own experience of living with an amputation. He also talked compellingly of his concerns about the rise in diabetes-related amputations and the ways in which they could be prevented. Actions such as ensuring everyone with diabetes gets good quality annual foot checks, knowing how to look after their feet and knowing who to contact should a problem arise can all help to reduce amputations.


“Meeting George highlighted for me the human tragedy behind these stark statistics. In the coming weeks I will be talking to health leaders in St Helens South and Whiston about what needs to be done to help prevent avoidable amputations and also encouraging the Government to do more to tackle this serious issue.”


Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “We are pleased to have Marie Rimmer MP’s support on this vital issue. The fact that the total number of amputations is continuing to rise is a huge concern because we know the devastating impact they have on people’s lives. As well as the psychological impact, they also cost lives as most people die within five years of having one.


“We need urgent action to address this, and with the 135 shoes we are sending a powerful message about the scale of this issue. The vast majority of these amputations are not inevitable, and we need people to show us they care about what is happening and take action to help us help many more people avoid the trauma of amputation. That’s why we’re asking people to tweet the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, about this using #135shoes. For more information on this and other ways to get involved visit our website.”


Celebrities who donated signed shoes for Diabetes UK’s 135 event included:


  • Footballer Gary Mabbutt MBE, who has had Type 1 diabetes since he was a teenager and nearly lost his leg two years ago due to diabetes complications, donated a pair of football boots
  • X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, whose mum (Melissa Bell, former singer with Soul II Soul) has Type 2 diabetes and is on kidney dialysis due to the condition, gave a pair of heels
  • Olympic Gold figure skater Robin Cousins donated a pair of ice skates (without the blade) to support the event because there is diabetes in his family.

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