The researchers, from London South Bank University (LSBU), said that 100 British people lose a limb every week as a result of complications from their diabetes.
But they said the new device could mean that problems are spotted sooner, meaning that patients will not have to undergo the agony of amputation.
The diagnostic tool, the peripheral sensory neuropathy test (PerSeNT), scans the foot to look at major skin breaches and, using “pressure mapping”, detects the loss of sensation associated with ulceration.
The results can then be sent to a patient’s GP at the touch of a button.
The creators hope the device will be rolled out in pharmacies and care homes as well as GP surgeries to reduce the need for trained clinicians to spend time testing for peripheral neuropathy – the condition that can lead to ulceration and possibly limb amputation.
Dr Michelle Spruce, head of the Allied Sciences Department at LSBU, said: “With costs of treating diabetes set to reach 17 billion by 2035, this new piece of equipment could have significant treatment and surgery cost savings for the NHS.
“This extraordinary and much-needed diagnostic piece of equipment will offer a community-based solution to a major problem affecting millions of people.
“As a result, clinical assistants will be able to test patients much more regularly and in a more reliable and rigorous manner.
“Its use in care homes will also eliminate the need for patients to travel to their clinic or GP.
“The earlier that peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed, the lower the chance of developing serious complications later on.
“Overall, this affordable piece of equipment will have a dramatic effect on the quality of life and independence of many diabetes and obesity sufferers, as well as clear economic benefit to health providers worldwide.”