Stepping up to the challenge

Up to 80% of the population are estimated to need the services of either an NHS or private podiatrist at some stage of their life, to deal with health problems of the feet. Whilst parts of the profession have continued to provide urgent emergency treatments during the current pandemic, podiatry now has to work out new methods of returning to its additional roles of regular preventative care for the many millions of people, including many  vulnerable people such as diabetics, who need such care every year. Podiatrist Martin Harvey, chief executive of the national professional body the Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists said; “our members face the challenge that in order to work on peoples feet we are certainly not socially distant, so we have had to implement and develop new systems of working giving the maximum possibly safety to patient and podiatrist alike. Let me reassure the public that as regulated Health Professionals we are ensuring that we adhere to the highest possible standards of personal protection equipment and your feet are as safe as we can possibly make them in our hands. Members of the public can see the detailed guidance available to our members on the Institutes website https://www.iocp.org.uk

Open Letter to: The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP; Edward Argar, MP; Jo Churchill, MP; Helen Whately, MP; Nadine Dorries, MP; John Barwick, Chief Executive, HCPC; Christine Elliott, Chair HCPC; Suzanne Rastrick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, NHS England; Beverley Harden, Health Education England
 
 

17th April 2020

Dear Ministers and Professional Regulators

 

An open letter

Podiatry – A caring profession in the shadows

 

I write further to my previous letter highlighting that whilst we as a profession applaud the wonderful selfless efforts of front-line staff in other areas of health care fighting the current dreadful disease, podiatry faces major challenges both now and for the future that could if unchecked irreversibly damage our profession and the care that we give to millions of UK citizens.

 

In addition to some NHS podiatry care, more than 50% of podiatry treatments are delivered in the private sector by private clinics, including some of the most advanced therapies for treating the feet and associated structures as well as the specialist care that we give to the feet of people with diabetes, infections, damaged joints etc plus routine foot care to maintain the foot health of millions of elderly and vulnerable people and therefore their mobility and consequently their general health and quality of life.

 

I must point out there is now a real danger that the private sector especially may find its businesses destroyed due to lack of support and resources, and therefore our ability to care reduced beyond a level of sustainability which could mean millions of new cases being presented to the NHS.

 

Let me be clear, I am not talking about just trimming nails and digging out the odd corn which is still a perception of what we do amongst certain other sectors of healthcare about Chiropody/Podiatry (although that is also essential if you cannot do it yourself) but diabetic amputations being necessary because routine regular specialist care has not been given, unchecked osteomyelitis developing and potentially killing people for the simple lack of a foot wound being knowledgably cared for and treated by a podiatrist and so many other specialist tasks that our profession quietly performs day in and day out.

 

I have been receiving reports from private practitioners of their total inability to source PPE, of local councils treating private clinics less well than local non-health related retail shops for grants and rates relief and other instances of inequality and recognition too frequent to mention. As for any prospect whatsoever of CV-19 testing for the private (and indeed NHS) podiatry workforce, I am not aware of any mention of this being suggested and neither is my organisation as one of the UK’s oldest professional Podiatry/Chiropody bodies.

 

I would request that as a matter of the most extreme urgency you reach out to UK podiatry and give us, or at least facilitate supply of, the tools, support and recognition to do our job. If private clinics fail then the resultant overload could destroy any semblance of ability to cope by either our NHS colleagues or by other area’s of medicine who are neither trained, qualified or equipped to perform our specialist care.

 

Yours In Hope

Martin Harvey, FPodM, PGC, BSc

HCPC Registered Podiatrist Independent Prescriber

Chair of Executive Council, Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists

 

 

 

Open Letter to: The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP; Edward Argar, MP; Jo Churchill, MP; Helen Whately, MP; Nadine Dorries, MP; John Barwick, Chief Executive, HCPC; Christine Elliott, Chair HCPC; Suzanne Rastrick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, NHS England; Beverley Harden, Health Education England

 

Dear Colleague

May I first express the hope that you and your family are keeping well in this challenging time.

I am writing on behalf of the membership of the Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, but this is a matter that must be of concern to all registered podiatrists, hence the open letter.

Podiatry is a small, yet absolutely vital profession, more so than ever due to our ageing population and the consequent requirement for effective, medically valid care and treatment of the nation’s feet.  I do know from my own work on various projects for the Department of Health, that a minimum of 50%, perhaps more, of podiatry care is delivered through private practice and it is this area that I would like to draw your attention to at this time.

I know that I speak for my profession, when I say that we fully appreciate and  understand that scarce resources must be initially targeted at defeating Covid-19 by supplying front line medical staff with the tools  to permit them to perform their wonderful, challenging, and may I say exceptionally brave efforts. However, we also have to plan for the future of services such as podiatry, because  if that service fails it compromises the foot (and therefore general) health of diabetics, the frail and elderly and even the fit and well who may develop acute foot problems.

As private practices are businesses, they are at very real danger of failing due to lack of income, and whilst the governments initiatives may help individuals, the effect on such private podiatry practices with the continuing overheads such businesses have, may be irredeemable, not least additionally due to permanently losing clients in situations where practices are closed for extended periods. Accordingly, I am requesting that the private practitioner is not left out of consideration of being offered services such as virus testing and other support in a timely manner, which may assist individual practitioners in getting back to work safeguarding feet as soon as safely and ethically possible.

I would also highlight the number of HCPC registered private podiatry practitioners who have responded to the call for assistance to the NHS and hope that we have an opportunity to use our professional skills effectively. Given the substantial experience that we have with the elderly and similar ‘at risk’ groups, perhaps a consideration and discussion of how best to use the resource of private podiatry as a whole to maximum effect is worthwhile.

My best wishes for your continued health, yours sincerely,

Martin Harvey, FPodM, PGC, BSc

HCPC Registered Podiatrist Independent Prescriber

Chair of Executive Council, Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists

 

 

Response: John Barwick, Chief Executive & Registrar HCPC 

HCPC response to open letter