Record numbers of amputations on NHS amid warnings 1 in 10 will soon suffer type two diabetes

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Record number of people are undergoing amputations on the NHS, official figures show, amid warnings that diabetes will soon afflict one in 10 adults.

Health officials said it was a “tragedy” that so many people were facing life-changing surgery as a result of preventable ill-health.

Estimates suggest that almost 5 million adults will suffer from Type Two diabetes by 2035 – a rise from 3.9 million, they said.

The trend – fuelled by soaring obesity levels – means almost one in 10 adults will have the condition in less than two decades.

The statistics from Public Health England (PHE) reveal 27,465 amputations between 2015 and 2018, compared with 24,181 cases between 2012 and 2015 – a rise of 14 per cent.

Britain’s obesity levels are the highest in Western Europe, and rising faster than those of the United States.

Two in three adults are overweight or obese, along with one in three children by the age of 11.

At a glance | What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. There are 2 main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes – where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes – where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1. In the UK, around 90 per cent of all adults with diabetes have Type 2.


One in six hospital beds are now occupied by someone with type 2 diabetes and 22,000 people die early every year in England as a result of the disease.

The figures show more than 147,000 hospital stays for diabetic foot disease between 2015 and 2018, with more than 1.8 million bed days used by those being treated for the condition.

It comes as the NHS expands a national prevention programme, which will see 200,000 a year enrolled in diet and fitness efforts to cut their risk of the condition.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes cause poor circulation – meaning that sufferers are 15 times more likely to have a limb amputated than those without the condition.

They can lose toes, feet and legs or fingers, hands and arms.

Experts say four in five amputations could be avoided if people with diabetes were given the right care.

It comes as the NHS expands a national prevention programme, which will see 200,000 a year enrolled in diet and fitness efforts to cut their risk of the condition.

Dr Jenifer Smith, Programme Director at PHE for the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, said: “It’s a tragedy that so many people are unnecessarily having to face the life-changing consequences of diabetes, such as amputations. Survival rates and quality of life for people following such major surgery can often be poor. This shouldn’t be happening when the condition is preventable.

“Type 2 diabetes remains the greatest health challenge in this country and many adults are in danger of developing this deadly but preventable disease.”

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