Diabetes not taken seriously by public, says Diabetes UK

Diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to devastating health complications, but new research by Diabetes UK reveals that only a small percentage of the British public are aware of how life-changing this condition can be.

There are 169 diabetes-related amputations each week, which means someone loses a leg, foot or toe every HOUR.

There are over 1,000 amputations every year in the south west alone

12.3m people in UK at risk of Type 2 diabetes, yet public unaware of the devastating health complications

While diabetes-related amputations now stand at 1,095 a year on average across the south west, in Swindon there were 173 amputations in the past three years, or more than one a week.

A new survey by Walnut Unlimited (1), which spoke to 1,000 people with and without a link to diabetes shows the extent of this lack of awareness, with only two per percent spontaneously saying a stroke, kidney damage (4 per cent) and heart disease (6 per cent) are complications of diabetes.

Despite amputation and blindness being prevalent diabetes-related complications, only one in four (25 per cent) people surveyed said, unprompted, that they were linked to diabetes. Furthermore, the survey found that no one spontaneously knew diabetes could cause problems in pregnancy and only 2 per cent knew diabetes could lead to a shorter life span or early death (4 per cent).

Evidence shows just how serious this condition can be. The recent National Diabetes Audit (NDA) into Complications and Mortality (2) shows that people with diabetes are 32 per cent more likely to die prematurely than people without diabetes, due largely to the health complications resulting from diabetes.

Additional figures from Public Health England show there were 1,095 amputations a year on average in the south west between 2014 and 2017. Nationally, there were 8,793 amputations a year on average in England over the same period, which equates to 169 amputations each week, or one every hour. The number of minor amputations, which includes a toe, heel or foot also continues to rise each year.

Similarly, more than 1,600 people have their sight seriously affected by their diabetes every year in the UK. This means around 30 people a week develop sight loss due to their diabetes.

Diabetes is a significant health crisis, and it is on the rise. Analysis from Diabetes UK shows the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes has doubled in the last 20 years. There are now 3.7 million people in the UK living with a diabetes diagnosis (90 per cent have Type 2 diabetes) and around 12.3 million people are at an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The condition now affects more people than any other serious health condition in the UK – more than dementia and cancer combined.

However, diabetes-related complications can be prevented or delayed with early diagnosis, support and education to ensure the condition is managed correctly. To support this, Diabetes UK has launched a new campaign called ‘Be in the know’ which aims to raise awareness of the devastating complications associated with diabetes.

Annika Palmer, Diabetes UK south west regional head, said: “Losing a limb, eyesight or having a stroke is devastating and often life-changing. It is vital people with diabetes receive the right support from their healthcare teams to help them identify any early signs of a complication.

“Many complications can be prevented or delayed so it is incredibly important that people with diabetes are vigilant and contact their GP as soon as possible if they have any concerns.”

Chris Witt, 64 from St Austell in Cornwall was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1999. Chris admits he didn’t take his diagnosis as seriously as he should have done and, while on holiday abroad in 2013 he developed a blister on his toe which became ulcerated and infected. The spread of the infection into the bone led to an initial amputation of the foot. Due to complications and spread of infection, a below-the-knee amputation was needed.

Chris, said: “My doctor ran some tests as I had been feeling absolutely dreadful. I remember being on my way to Norway when he phoned to tell me I had diabetes. It really didn’t faze me at all as I didn’t really know too much about the implications.”

“There was a really good nurse at my practice who was dedicated to looking after people with diabetes. I remember the message coming through from her about looking after my feet but I just didn’t take it on board. I should’ve taken heed of the advice that was being given.”

“The surgeons suggested a full foot amputation and were quite optimistic that in six months they should be able to get me back into normal shoes, however my wound wouldn’t heal. It was tedious having it dressed three times a week but I didn’t want to lose the limb.”

“I explained to the doctor that I had a cruise booked for the following week and would face the music when I got back. However, the doctor looked at me across the table and said he wanted to do a below the knee amputation the following day!”

This week, Diabetes UK is launching a new campaign called ‘Be in the Know’ which calls for people to be more aware of diabetes-related amputations. For more information, please visit http://www.diabetes.org.uk/beintheknow

Diabetes UK’s new feet Information Prescription is also there to help people with diabetes look after their feet. It helps people be more aware of how diabetes can affect feet and the signs and symptoms to look out for. To find out more about our feet Information Prescriptions visit: www.diabetes.org.uk/info-feet


1.    Diabetes UK’s aim is creating a world where diabetes can do no harm. Diabetes is the most devastating and fastest growing health crisis of our time, affecting more people than any other serious health condition in the UK – more than dementia and cancer combined. There is currently no known cure for any type of diabetes. With the right treatment, knowledge and support people living with diabetes can lead a long, full and healthy life. For more information about diabetes and the charity’s work, visit www.diabetes.org.uk   

2.    Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. If not managed well, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of preventable sight loss in people of working age in the UK and is a major cause of lower limb amputation, kidney failure and stroke.  

3.    People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. About 10 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 1. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it’s not to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable. It’s the most common type of diabetes in children and young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly. Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin doses – taken either by injections or via an insulin pump. It is also recommended to follow a healthy diet and take regular physical activity.

4.    People with Type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce doesn’t work properly (known as insulin resistance). About 90 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2. They might get Type 2 diabetes because of their family history, age and ethnic background puts them at increased risk. They are also more likely to get Type 2 diabetes if they are overweight. It starts gradually, usually later in life, and it can be years before they realise they have it. Type 2 diabetes is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. In addition, tablets and/or insulin can be required.