Postcode Lottery for NHS Orthotics Patients

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Our latest paper published in the BMJ Open highlight large variances in appointment times, waiting times, product entitlements for patients, and product lead times across various NHS trusts.

Although some geographical areas provide shorter waiting times and wider access to assistive devices, other areas have very long waiting time which means that the service, particularly to the paediatric population is meaningless.

The NHS trusts seemed to be able to answer questions that reflect quantity of service above quality of service. However, the combination of the number of Trusts who declined to reply to the FOI request and those who replied with limited information, hindered the ability of this study to collate the data received to provide a fuller national picture of the Orthotic Service provision.

Although this paper confirms that many of the issues reported in previous reports on Orthotic Service provision are still evident, the result show that there have been some improvements.

Read the full paper here: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/10/e028186

Press Release: https://www.staffs.ac.uk/news/2019/10/postcode-lottery-for-nhs-orthotics-patients

My experiences at Staffordshire University and #StaffsBiomech

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Christopher Aitkins

The decision of where to study for a master’s degree was a difficult one. There seemed to be an endless choice of institutions, with a multitude of differing delivery models. I was working as a podiatrist and an undergraduate lecturer, I had both teaching and clinical commitments which I couldn’t escape for long periods and the idea of a purely online course seemed tempting; however, deep down I knew that work and life pressures would likely mean my studies may take a back seat. The MSc Clinical Podiatric Biomechanics course seemed ideal, the teaching was blended taught sessions on a weekend, so my day job didn’t need to suffer and there was online support available. This was a bonus as I live in the North East of England and the idea of popping in for a quick tutorial wasn’t possible.

The course was delivered by excellent teaching staff, people who were not only passionate about the subjects they specialised in, but were the authors of the current literature which I had been reading to develop my own clinical practice. In all honesty I was a little star struck, when I met some of them. I was determined not ask a “stupid question”, however, every tutor made me feel at ease and provide a safe and supportive environment which meant there were no “stupid questions”. The discussions that formed were insightful and helpful, led by the tutor guiding us to through the subject. This learning experience is one I have never encountered before and is one I try to model within any teaching sessions I deliver.

The support continued throughout my time studying with Staffordshire University, all my tutors were on hand with a quick reply to an email or to arrange a time for a telephone call which, they managed to fit around my working schedule. This support never wavered even when I started my dissertation. I had excellent guidance from day one; I had opportunity to spend time discussing with my supervisor my research idea, developing my methodology and setting a realistic time frame. At my first meeting my wife was 6 months pregnant with our 1st child. My tutor helped me set a timetable and deadlines which were achievable. Without this I feel, I would have made this process almost impossible for myself and possibly not finished at all. Balancing the demands to complete a research project, write a thesis and live with a new born was challenging. But my tutor had an excellent skill to allow me the space to progress and work, but check in exactly when I needed a boost, some encouragement or just the opportunity to share where I was up to. I completed my project and received a good grade; I was so proud of my achievement through whole duration of my study and felt I had completed a well-rounded piece of research. I have to admit I was surprised when my tutor suggested that I should publish my research. I had never published in a scientific journal, “that’s the sort of thing experts do” I thought. However, as I reflected, I realised that my research was worthy of publication. I had no idea where to start, but my tutors came to my rescue again providing me with the same level of support I had before ( For people who are interested in reading our work, please follow this link).

I am so glad I chose to study with Staffordshire University and the teaching team on MSc Clinical Biomechanics course. I have not only gained a qualification, but published researched, developed a professional network that are always happy to share and discuss learning and most importantly I have developed as clinician. It has not only helped my practice and patients but the experience has allowed me to grow as a professional.

Branthwaite, H., Aitkins, C., Lindley, S. and Chockalingam, N., 2019. Surface Electromyography of the foot: a protocol for sensor placement. The Foot. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foot.2019.07.001

 

Explanatory model for diabetic foot ulcers

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First paper from the collaborative work between Dr Zulfiqarali G. Abbas and colleagues from the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences and Abbas Medical Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania  and Professor Nachi Chockalingam and colleagues at Staffordshire University has just been published in the Journal of Diabetes and its Complications.

This particular work is part of a wide ranging research focusing on Diabetic foot and its complications and is led by Professor Roozbeh Naemi at Staffordshire. This research was aimed at identifying various parameters that will help explaining the presence of foot ulceration in patients with diabetes.

The work examined the biomechanical, neurological, and vascular parameters along with other demographics and life style risk factors that could explain the presence of foot ulcer in 1270 patients with diabetes. Although the data focused on patients in Tanzania, the results has  a global implication. 

The results of this study showed that the participants with ulcerated foot exhibit distinct characteristics in some of the foot related clinical observations. Swollen foot, limited ankle mobility, and peripheral sensory neuropathy were significant characteristics of patients with diabetic foot ulcer. In addition, the explanatory model outlined within this research clearly shows that only one out of three patients with ulcerated foot showed common characteristics that are typically considered as contributing factor to ulceration.

 

Can a combination of lifestyle and clinical characteristics explain the presence of foot ulcer in patients with diabetes?
Available Online 01 March 2019
Roozbeh Naemi, Nachiappan Chockalingam, Janet K. Lutale, Zulfiqarali G. Abbas

Life as a PhD student: An Indian Experience by Stylianos Fanourakis

This is my very first blog and I would like to share a small part of my experience in India as a PhD student so far. I have observed a lot of similarities and obvious influences of western civilization on Indian lifestyle. It has been a month since I arrived in Tamil Nadu, which is located in the South of India. It is a unique place with its own distinctive language called Tamil in addition to the national language (Hindi). I have visited a few cities in Tamil Nadu and the major temples in those cities that are at least 2000 years old. It fascinates me to know that they remain intact even after the known history of wars, without any intention of the invaders to attack or destroy some of them. Those temples are also protected by UNESCO heritage committee and are indeed amazing.

India has a very interesting landscape, which is rich in flora and fauna. As an European, it is very interesting for me to see monkeys jumping around the place like stray animals. Personally, I have seen monkeys only in cages at the zoo but never at my doorstep like in here.

Indian food is tasty. However, it is difficult for me to adapt to a vegetarian lifestyle. Of course, there are options for non-vegetarians like me, but not so widely available in the place where I am staying.

I am currently at SASTRA university, where I have been invited to collaborate for several months during my PhD. I am impressed by the size of the campus, which is vivid with a lot of students. This may be due to the fact that I am used to divided campuses. In the UK and Greece, I have never seen a whole campus operating as a single entity. The campus is always alive and active with people working six days a week. Also, I found that unlike most countries, people in India including academic staff and students, work six days a week. However, I deem that human body requires more than just one day per week to rest and alleviate stress.

My project at SASTRA university is about developing an innovative device, like a fully automated weight-bearing ultrasound scanning machine. It is a complicated task and challenging to deal with , however, this fact makes it interesting. Absolutely, it will not be a common topic of research for a PhD program. I am working with two other PhD scholars from SASTRA university, Hari and Saru. Each one of us, have our own objective in order to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to construct a new fully automated weight-bearing ultrasound device.

My objective is to create a new approach to automated elastography by calculating a map of stiffness through the deformation of a stand-off material. The device will also include features such as automated segmentation of various types of tissues; independent of their mechanical properties or thickness. Finally, the ultrasound device will be able to identify if the sample tissue is healthy or pathologic by quantifying the homogeneity of textured features. Furthermore, the weight-bearing device is aimed to be implemented in everyday clinical practice. In summary, the project is expected to have beneficial outcomes and promising results.

From my experience, I can say that India has a lot of opportunities and prospects as a competitor to the global market. The cost of living in India is cheaper in comparison to many other countries; but, that does not mean the lack of quality. The current rate of renewals or updates in relation to the infrastructure and transportation are low. I would recommend that the public transportation services are improved and updated periodically. Also, eco-friendly vehicles with less air and noise pollution would be useful. Better waste management and recycling methods must be promoted. Additionally, implementing strategies that utilize the renewable energy sources like the solar panels, which takes advantage of the sunlight available throughout the year can be beneficial. Last but not the least, there is a need for investing more into health, safety and hygiene. If the above actions are taken, perhaps, India may soon be one of the upcoming powerful global players.