Older people like to stand on their own feet. They also like to get out and about and that means walking. Unfortunately they also have trouble caring for their feet. Hornsey Pensioners Action Group (www.hornseypensionersactiongroup.org.uk) has campaigned for over 8 years to highlight the importance of good foot care for older people.
Way back in November 2007 half the members at the AGM of the Haringey Forum for Older People admitted that they had trouble cutting their toenails; NHS figures confirm that 63% of those over 65 have such trouble.
Considering the health benefits of foot care that promote mobility and prevent falls and foot infections that lead to costly hospital treatment, it would be economic to provide professional services, but on the contrary services in Haringey have deteriorated.
For instance The Willoughby Road and Woodside drop in centres used to supply free basic non-medical toe nail services. This was performed by the managers who had had a 4 day training course given by the local health authority at that time. The managers at other drop in centres were also trained and users had to buy their kits for around £6 to avoid cross infection. Now only one of the former managers performs this service, having to serve the whole borough. Appointments must be made (07773382408) and a doctor’s permission sought. Even the continuation of this very pared down vital service is now under threat from government cut backs to council funding. We are not sure what provision is being organised at individual GP practices.
Those suffering from medical conditions such as diabetes are entitled to NHS provided toenail cutting. One of our members qualified for this service eleven years ago, and was accustomed to having her toe nails trimmed every 6 weeks, later every 8 weeks and then every 3 months. At that stage her feet began to suffer. She found that appointments were now notified by post and difficult to reschedule, possibly due to cuts in administration. This lady was forced to go private.
Doctors can refer patients to the Podiatry service for general problems for their feet that reduce mobility – such as plantar fasciitis. The therapists give excellent treatment, but waiting times to see them are very long indicating that there are not enough professionals employed. How many people resort to paying for advice and how many without the spare cash remain in pain while waiting?
We hear about ‘integrated care’, but neither healthcare commissioners nor social services appear to acknowledge responsibility; we suspect that the issue is not being taken seriously.
With severe cuts to local day centres in Haringey who will now help those needing foot care? Surely we should keep older people walking comfortably?
by Lauritz Hansen-Bay