A national decline in the leg and foot health of the population is leading to a rise in amputations. Now medical professionals across the country are hoping to tackle the issue. Laura Hanton reports.

PEOPLE are being told to check their legs for sores, after new statistics reveal the scary truth about amputation.

Every two hours in England, someone tragically loses their leg to a non-healing wound. An array of different medical conditions can increase the risk of leg sores, including type two diabetes, oedema, ulcers and kidney problems. A simple cut or bruise can take a turn for the worse if it is left unmonitored and untreated.

In Dorset alone, there were 313 amputations in the year 2016/2017, costing the NHS £10.6 million.

Nurses across the UK are now pledging to improve the population's leg health and the first national Legs Matter Awareness Week ran last week.

A number of leg clubs have been set up in locations across Dorset, from Weymouth and Portland to Blandford and Poole. Manned by medical professionals, the clubs offer treatment and advice at the same time as giving patients a chance to socialise.

Paula Sheldon, a nurse at the leg club in Blandford which runs every Wednesday morning, said: "Leg ulcers can be very isolating, but these clubs help patients support each other. They can be quite sociable events."

Paula advises anyone with a wound on their leg that hasn't healed within two weeks to seek help by making an appointment with a nurse or popping along to a club.

"Catching the wounds early is crucial," she said. "People need to be checking their legs every day."

Other top tips include moisturising daily and propping your feet up on a stool when sitting down, which improves blood flow.

Leg club patient Christopher Creech, 67, from Upton, has been receiving treatment for leg ulcers for the past nine years.

"It all started when I was stung on the back of one of my calves," he says. "My leg was itching like hell. I thought it’d go away on its own but when I looked at my legs, they were covered in blisters. From the knee to the ankle – just covered. I’d put plasters on my legs, but the blisters would just leak through. I could cope with the pain. It was the smell that was the problem.”

Paula says that lots of people spend weeks trying to dress and heal the wounds themselves before seeking help. "People are often very surprised that they've developed a serious problem," she added. "They say they've never had an issue with leg wounds or healing before. But conditions develop for a wide range of reasons."

Things began to improve for Christopher when he sought help at his local leg club. "I'd go along every week and the nurses would dress my legs properly," he recounts. "They'd do it really tight, you could feel the difference. I'd have it done the next week and you could see that my legs were getting better."

After regular treatment, Christopher's leg ulcers began to heal, but he continues to go the club each week to have his legs checked. Paula stresses the importance of aftercare: "Treatment is not a cure. The ulcers can and do come back unless you continue to take care of your legs."

Treatment often involves wearing compression stockings and bandages, which help maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort and swelling. Effective care early on can reduce healing time from around two years to just a few months, and is also estimated to be 10 times cheaper. Serious leg and foot conditions are currently costing the NHS up to £5.3 billion every year.

A group of eight health care charities and not-for-profit organisations have come together to tackle the issue. They have produced an online checklist for people, including health care professionals, to recognise the signs and symptoms of lower leg and foot problems. Members want people to get involved by holding their own Legs Matter Natter, inviting family and friends over for a cup a tea to get the conversation rolling abut leg and foot health.

For more information about how to keep your legs healthy, or to find your nearest leg club, visit www.legsmatter.org.


Portland Leg Club runs at the Community Centre in Easton every Thursday, from 9am until 12pm. Contact 01305 820422.

Weymouth Leg Club runs every day of the week at a different location. Contact 01305 782226.

Monday, 9.30am to 12.30pm at St Francis Church in Littlemoor.

Tuesday, 9.30am to 12.30pm at Westham Methodist Church.

Wednesday, 9.30am to 12.30pm at Victory Hall in Charlestown.

Thursday, 9.30am to 12.30pm at Springfield Social Club in Dorchester Road.

Friday, 9.30am to 12.30pm at Wyke Regis Community Centre.

PANEL If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your GP and get your legs checked over.

  • Swelling
  • Tired, throbbing and painful legs
  • Cramp or pain after walking
  • Tingling sensations
  • Dry, itchy and scaly skin
  • Reddish or brown stained patches of skin between the knee and ankle
  • Raised veins in the lower leg
  • Hard skins, cracks or fissures on the heel
  • Sores and knocks that are not healing
  • Redness and skin marks from clothing

Your GP will then refer you to a specialist healthcare professional, such as a vascular nurse or your local leg club, who will be able to do some simple tests to find out if you have a problem.