In support of the Legs Matter Campaign’s awareness week (11–15 October), Sam Everington, a GP at the Bromley by Bow Centre in London, UK, and former British Medical Association (BMA) chair, is calling on GPs, pharmacists and other primary care professionals to adopt a proactive approach towards “preventable,” life-threatening or serious leg and foot problems.
A press release reports that the growing epidemic, costing the UK National Health Service (NHS) up to £8.5 billion annually, affects an estimated 1.8 million people in the UK each year, often linked to obesity and caused by an underlying issue with circulation or neuropathy.
A report published earlier this year revealed that the number of patients with wounds annually has increased from an estimated 2.2 million between 2012/2013 to around 3.8 million in 2017/2018—an increase of 73%, the press release communicates.
Everington said: “The Legs Matter Campaign is rightly focused on patient and public empowerment, identifying the small changes that people need to make to create change. Healthcare professionals providing services in primary care and community pharmacies also need to be at the forefront of this change.
“As GPs and pharmacists, we are there when people seek support for worrying changes or new injuries to legs and feet. We all need to act promptly and provide the right care swiftly so that these wounds do not deteriorate into long-lasting leg or foot ulcers or other serious, chronic conditions. It is simply not necessary and can be prevented.
“I would like to see all primary care professionals adopt a proactive approach to the spiralling number of serious leg and foot problems. If more patients and clinicians work together to address this national issue, we can start to turn the tide on this hidden epidemic.”
As part of the campaign targeting the public and patients; GPs, pharmacists, podiatrists, tissue viability, district and practice nurses are among the healthcare professionals being urged to take action, support the initiative and to sign up for online events during the third national week.
Nurse consultant Leanne Atkin from Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, UK, is chair of the campaign, working to increase understanding, awareness and action for serious lower leg conditions, including leg or foot ulcers, swollen legs and cellulitis.
Atkin said: “For this year’s campaign, we want to empower people to be proactive about their own health and we are also asking primary care professionals to take charge of leg and foot problems and ensure that patients have access to face-to-face care, so that any issues can be spotted quickly. Ensuring patients receive the right healthcare at the right time makes a huge difference to both healing times and outcomes.”
Campaigners hope that as part of the week, even more primary care professionals will get involved and help patients to make a positive change using tips and the latest information on the www.legsmatter.org website, including self-management, exercise and having a positive mindset. The site will feature free resources and virtual events, suitable for the public, patients and healthcare professionals, including live Q&A sessions with clinicians and patients.
Former Army medic and disability sportswoman Nerys Pearce is fronting the 2021 Legs Matter Awareness Week campaign—urging others to take positive action and to make a change for better leg and foot health.
After sustaining life-changing injuries, she has received ongoing support from podiatrist and Legs Matter Campaign member Joanne Casey, from The Royal College of Podiatry. Joanne said: “Often with spinal injuries, like those sustained by Nerys, there is a lack of feeling, so it is important for us as health professionals to check the skin on the feet and legs for signs of redness, swelling, bruising, cuts or splits, changes in temperature and deformity. As podiatrists we can quickly identify a problem, suggest treatment and stop it escalating into something which could be life-threatening.”
Supported by NHS England, the Legs Matter Campaign was formed by a group of the UK’s leading lower limb clinicians, who, together with patient partners, are campaigning to make serious leg and foot problems a thing of the past.
Operating under the governance of the charity, The Tissue Viability Society, Legs Matter is also made up of representatives from The British Lymphology Society, Accelerate, The Royal College of Podiatry, The Society of Vascular Nurses, The Lindsay Leg Club Foundation, Foot in Diabetes UK and The Leg Ulcer Forum. It wants to ensure that anyone with a lower leg or foot problem understands their condition and gets the urgent care and support that they need.