The Council of Deans of Health and the College of Podiatry have called for urgent action to tackle declining numbers of podiatry students. This follows a joint meeting of representatives from across the profession, universities and the Council on 12 February in London which looked at recruitment challenges including the 49% decline in student numbers across the south and the overall decline of 23% since the comprehensive spending review. The meeting explored a number of solutions and concluded that decisive, urgent action needed to be taken.
The Council and the College are therefore calling for the introduction of a maintenance grant for healthcare students and full payment of tuition fees for podiatry students in England. In return the graduate would work for NHS service post-qualification. Such a scheme would guarantee the future workforce which is vital to a sustainable and cost-effective NHS.
Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, Chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said:
“Universities in England have worked hard to recruit to podiatry courses but are really struggling to fill places. Student numbers have fallen two years running and appear to be faring worse than any other healthcare profession. The Council is supporting existing recruitment efforts by the Office for Students, the College of Podiatry and the NHS but it is clear that more needs to be done to support school leavers and mature students to study Podiatry. Both the Council and College of Podiatry are in full agreement that additional support is required to encourage students to enter this rewarding profession.”
George Dunn, Chairman of the College of Podiatry, said:
“Podiatry has been hit particularly hard by the 2017 reforms to healthcare education funding primarily because of the high proportion of mature students traditionally entering this profession. The knock-on effect for the podiatry workforce supply pipeline is very serious and will undermine the NHS’ ability to provide care in line with its Long Term Plan. The NHS podiatry profession is at the heart of preventative care within community health services, particularly for the increasing number of patients with diabetes, musculoskeletal and rheumatological conditions.
“The number of podiatrists working for the NHS in England has already declined sharply over the past decade. New financial support for podiatry students in return for service, alongside concerted recruitment campaigns, could help to attract students and retain newly qualified professionals. Without such measures we are likely to see a critical impact on patient safety and a reduction in preventative footcare.”
3.7m people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, this is predicted to rise to over 5 million by 2025. Based on this figure 1.2 million (24%)[i] of these people will require regular podiatry appointments to ensure they remain ulcer and amputation free. The NHS in England currently spends £1 billion per year on diabetic foot complications.[ii] Approximately 6,000 people with diabetes have leg, foot or toe amputation each year in England, with the correct and timely care 80% of these amputations could be prevented.
- The Council of Deans of Health represents the UK’s university faculties engaged in education and research for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals. At any one time our members will be educating in the region of 120,000 future registered health professionals.
- The College of Podiatry is the professional representative body and trade union for podiatrists across the UK. The College promotes guidelines and standards of practice that are evidence based, ensuring patient safety and clinical effectiveness with a focus on improving outcomes.
- For further information please contact: Jon Eames, 07496 693 806 or Lawrence Ambrose, 0207 234 8643
[i] P Leese, Graham & Stang, Duncan. (2015). When and how to audit a diabetic foot service. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews. 32. 10.1002/dmrr.2749.
[ii] Kerr, M., Rayman, G., Jeffcoate, WJ (2014) ‘Cost of diabetic foot disease to the National Health Service in England’. Diabetes Medicine; 31: 1498–1504