DESPITE recent progress, much more needs to be done to improve the care of Swindon diabetics, campaigners have warned.

The town remains the worst affected by the condition in the South West, with latest figures showing Swindon has the highest prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the region.

The figures, published by the National Diabetes Audit, which covers 2011-12, show 6.4 per cent of people over the age of 17 have been diagnosed with Type 1 and Type 2. This represents 11,081 people with diagnosed diabetes.

While major steps have been made since 2009-10 in offering the eight recommended health checks for diabetics, including blood pressure, cholesterol and foot checks, with a 41.2 per cent rate in Swindon compared with just nine per cent two years previously, the town remains in the bottom 25 per cent in the country. It is also a long way from the national average of 60.5 per cent.

And just 7.3 per cent of newly diagnosed people were offered education on how to best manage their condition, compared with 11.5 per cent nationwide.

Diabetes UK South West regional manager Phaedra Perry called for urgent improvements in Swindon to protect patients.

“While we recognise improvements have been made in diabetes care in Swindon, a lot more progress is urgently needed,” she said.

“People with diabetes need and deserve the best care to help them manage their condition and protect themselves from some of the dangerous complications that can occur, such as problems with the feet, eyes and kidneys.

“It is also in the best interests of Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure they get this care, as 80 per cent of NHS spending on diabetes goes on managing complications associated with diabetes.

“We also want GPs in Swindon to refer more patients to the free structured education courses available.”

Plans have been put in place to better train GPs and improve services for diabetes sufferers. A new procedure to restore blood flow to patients’ legs and prevent amputations was also recently introduced.

Stephen McMahon, who has campaigned for better care in Swindon since his wife Helen was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2002, said: “There has been a slight improvement, particularly in major amputations from the knee down, but the number of lower amputations, from the ankle down, is still too high.

“There are about 40 amputations a year here, whereas in places like Kingston there is only one.”

Stephen, 64, from Eldene, added: “Until recently there was only one podiatrist in Swindon. Since last September there are ten. But we still need to educate medical staff as well as patients and make sure doctors and nurses get in the habit of referring patients to podiatrists early enough. It’s a big task and Swindon has a long way to go.”