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Norfolk primary care trusts have defended their foot care services for older people in light of a report out yesterday that claims many are treating themselves because they cannot access NHS care.
More than a million over-65s have difficulties getting basic NHS foot care, according to Help the Aged, which said many resorted to tending their own feet - often with dangerous consequences.
One man interviewed by the charity said he used a razor blade to shave off his corns to save money.
The concerns are raised in the report Best Foot Forward: older people and foot care.
Help the Aged said provision of NHS podiatry services for older people should not be treated as the poor relation to high profile public health issues such as obesity and smoking.
The report said that of the 6.5 million over-65s needing professional foot care, one in four - 1.6 million - could not get NHS help.
A further 1.6 million people end up paying for treatment privately.
The charity said lack of investment in local NHS podiatry services and stringent eligibility criteria had resulted in discrimination against those who needed care the most.
While care was prioritised to those with clinical need, many older people were denied basic preventative care, which could make the difference between becoming housebound and losing independence or leading a full and active life.
This was despite older people needing professional foot care more than other groups.
But a spokeswoman for PCTs in Norfolk, said they consistently invested services and that would continue.
“Norfolk PCTs provide podiatry (chiropody) clinics for the public at locations all over the county and an initial assessment appointment will be offered to anyone requesting treatment. Referrals can be made by a health professional or a patient can self-refer,” she said.
“The scope of the service ranges from advice on self care, treatment for all kinds of foot health problems and podiatric surgery for specific conditions. Patients with diabetes are able to access a specialist foot care service, through their GP or via their specialist treatment centre.”
But chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich Pensioners' Association, Stanley Todd, said for many people it was a case of pay for it or go without.
“There isn't any question of being able to get it free or on the NHS, the service is such that it's almost non-existent. The whole (health) system seems to be if you pay you can get it, if you can't afford to you can go without. Chiropody is one of many important services.”
Private chiropodist, William Hutchings, who works in Diss, said one of the biggest problems was that there were not enough chiropodists and money went to other areas of the health service.
“The biggest problem I have is home treatments, things like corn plasters. Because they are available off the shelf people don't feel they have to talk to the pharmacist and that's where the problems arise. They then come to me with a lot of pain,” he added.