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Objectives. To determine the provision of foot health services in rheumatology for the UK and Northern Ireland.
Methods. Two hundred and sixteen rheumatology departments were surveyed by postal questionnaire. Questions covered the contribution of various disciplines to rheumatology out-patient clinics, and opinions on existing and potential services, with emphasis on foot health provision. Inter-regional variations were explored for eight UK regions.
Results. Valid responses were received from 170 respondents (78.7% response rate). More than 80% of out-patient departments reported having rheumatology nurse specialists included in the staff mix but fewer than half used other allied health professionals, such as podiatrists. One quarter of the departments had access to a podiatrist and in 18% there was a foot health service dedicated to rheumatology. Awareness of guidelines for referral or of standards of foot care provision was very low (6%). There was high satisfaction with the adequacy of provision of footwear and insoles (81-87%) but low satisfaction with the adequacy of basic foot care (48-52%). Regional variation was extremely high for the provision of basic foot care (0-73%), the non-English regions reporting poorer provision of service.
Conclusions. Regional variation in the adequacy of foot health services was high and the non-English regions especially are failing to meet the foot health needs of rheumatology patients. Multidisciplinary care is generally well developed despite the composition of teams being highly variable. Fewer than half of rheumatologists reported that basic foot care needs were being met, although adequacy of provision of more advanced foot services is perceived to be better. The absence of nationally agreed standards and poor awareness of local standards may be detrimental to care in this patient group.