A pilot scheme at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine is reducing the number of diabetes-related amputations by 90%
It has been estimated that some 100,000 people in Northern Ireland have diabetes and about £1m is spent by the health service each day on treating people with the condition.
The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has the highest number of diabetes cases, with more than 22,000 men and women on the diabetes register.
Figures show that 235 people had limbs amputated due to the disease in 2015.
Diabetes causes a person’s blood sugar level to become dangerously high.
There are two main types - while people are often born with type one, some, but by no means all, will develop type two as a result of obesity and lack of exercise.
Under the Diabetes Foot Pathway scheme, operating out of the Causeway Hospital, patients will see their podiatrist, dietician and nurse under one roof all within 24-48 hours, if required.
GPs can refer an emergency case knowing the person will be seen sometimes on the same day.
Elaine Davidson, the Health and Social Care Trust’s Principle Podiatrist, said diabetes can “attack” a person’s nervous system, blood supply and the arteries in their legs.
“Because your feet are the furthest part away from the heart, with limited blood supply, the reaction can be devastating,” she said.
“You can get blockages in the arteries, so a minor trauma to the foot can cause blisters, which can sometimes mean a foot emergency. We need to treat those patients within 24 to 48 hours.”
GP Brian Connor, who is the lead in the pilot project, is already seeing a reduction in the number of amputations in the health trust. He said the pilot is proving to be successful.
“For many people who have diabetes this can be the silent killer,” he added.
“In the Northern Health Trust we have so many patients - the highest number of patients across all of the health trusts who have had amputations due to diabetes.
“Not only is this having an impact on the patients lives but also the health service due to the costs incurred. In fact, Northern Ireland spends around £1m a day treating diabetes.”