13th October 2020

Being bold and brave

I had the pleasure of going along with a skeleton, COVID-friendly film crew, to film interviews with patients for this year’s Legs Matter Week. I’ve worked with Legs Matter as part of the brand, digital and marketing team since its inception over two years ago so I’m well aware of what the coalition are trying to achieve and why. But hearing first-hand accounts from patients of the harm, pain and suffering they’ve had to go through was eye-opening.

What struck me was how, despite each story been unique to the individual, there was a common thread running throughout all of the stories – that of not getting the right care when it was needed. The NHS do an incredible job under enormous time and budget challenges, coupled with not being allowed time off for educational development. But the stories I heard all had a common theme – a lack of understanding from generalist healthcare practitioners of what good leg and foot care looks and what preventative measures can be taken.

The same story but different

In every case, had the GPs or the consultant recognised that there was a bigger problem earlier on, then every single one of these patients would, most likely, not have had to endure the weeks, months or in some cases years of physical and mental suffering.

Julia’s wound that went for years without healing may have healed sooner. A simple Doppler test on Angie’s cold, white leg could have shown that she had a serious vascular problem, not Raynaud’s. Had Shaun not had the foresight to self-refer to a specialist leg ulcer clinic, he’d be in a very different position right now.

It takes remarkable courage and confidence to share your story with the public and media. It is perhaps these same qualities that made it possible for Angie, Julia and Shaun to ask and push for correct diagnosis and get the care they needed. My worry is that there are many people who, for whatever reason, are not able to push for different or better care and end up falling through the cracks.

My hope for the future

My hope is that if you’re a healthcare professional with a patient whose legs and feet don’t look right or they have a wound that hasn’t healed in under three weeks – please either do a Doppler test, check them for diabetes or just refer this person to specialist tissue viability or vascular care. Or at the very least check them against Legs Matter’s three point leg check. It doesn’t make you a failure to admit you don’t know it all – to not take charge can cause harm and undoubtedly cost the NHS dearly.

If you’re someone with a leg or foot problem, my hope is that you also demand the care you deserve. You are worth it. You are not putting a strain on the NHS, by not getting treated sooner – you potentially are going to make your leg or foot condition much harder to treat and then you really will be putting a strain on the NHS.

My hope for everyone is that we all take responsibility for our own leg and foot health, and that of our friends and family. The cost of not doing so could mean the potential loss of mobility, possible amputation, horrific pain, depression and emotional distress. And that is beyond heart breaking. See, your legs really do matter.

Getting loud together

In case you missed them, here’s Angie, Julia and Shaun telling their stories in full…

About the author

Sarah Rothwell is a user experience designer who works externally from Legs Matter. She is not a healthcare professional. But she is someone who cares about leg and foot health and people’s quality of life.

With special thanks

We’d like to thank Mitchbourne the film company that made filming during a tricky time both safe and fun. Their compassion and skill allowed our patients to tell their stories in their own way.