Intriguing data from the UK showing that, while strides are being made, there is big room for improvement in pathways.
We aimed to investigate podiatry practice in diagnosing peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in diabetes, decision making once PAD is suspected and limitations of referral pathways.
A survey, comprising 26 questions was distributed to podiatrists across the UK via mailing lists of collaborating organizations including the College of Podiatry (UK). Response rates were estimated based on NHS workforce data. Analysis of responses from the open-ended questions was performed using inductive content analysis.
Data from 283 respondents were analyzed. Response rate for all NHS podiatrists across the UK was estimated to be 6%. For the detection of arterial disease only 18.8% (n = 49/260) of participants reported using a full combination of history, pulse palpation, Doppler and ABPI assessment. Self-reported confidence in detecting arterial disease was highest amongst podiatrists who felt they had received adequate training compared to podiatrists who felt they had not (median 85 (IQR 75–90) vs 67 (50–77), respectively; p < 0.001) as well as those who see > 20 diabetic patients per week compared to those who see < 20 (median 80 (IQR 70–90) vs 72 (60–82.8), respectively; p < 0.001). Over one third of respondents (35.8%, n = 93/260) were aware of missed cases of PAD in the past year and 17.5% (n = 38/217) believed that this resulted in an amputation in some cases.
The survey highlighted a lack of clarity amongst podiatrists regarding referral guidelines. Additionally, 69% (n = 169/242) reported that their patients had to wait longer than 2-weeks for specialist vascular assessment and 67.6% (n = 54/80) reported similar waits for a Duplex Ultrasound scan. There was a statistically significant variation in DUS waiting time across the UK (X2 (10, N = 80) = 21.59, p = 0.017). Inability to make a direct referral to vascular services and long delays were reported as major limitations of the referral pathway.
We have identified important targets for further investigation and quality improvement.