Celebrating 20 years of Somerset’s podiatry service


Celebrating 20 years of Somerset’s podiatry service

Our team of 30 podiatry service colleagues are celebrating 20 years of providing foot care for people across Somerset.

Amazingly, two ‘originals’ still remain in the team – Roger Halliday and Rebecca Still, who are both podiatrists.

Tony Joyce, a podiatric surgeon and head of service, said he was proud of the outstanding achievements of our podiatry colleagues over the years.

“Our service is under more pressure than ever with a well-documented national shortage of podiatrists,” he said.

“This simply makes it all the more amazing how, every day, our colleagues do such a sterling job in ulcer prevention and treatment, limb preservation, and assisting with the mobility of people in Somerset.

“We provide many other types of service, including biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system, which looks at lower limb function, as well as orthotic devices that help with stretching and exercise therapy to improve a patient’s pain and mobility.

“We also offer minor toenail surgery under local anaesthetic for ingrowing toenails – though it’s important to note that, despite the misconception of what a podiatrist does, we don’t provide a social toe cutting service!

“It’s not just out in the community that our teams operate, as we also provide services in both Musgrove Park and Yeovil hospitals, where we manage patients who’ve been admitted from the community or through our district nurses and GPs. We work really closely with the vascular and endocrinology teams on the hospital wards too.

“When we first set up our service 20 years ago, we tended to care for elderly people who weren’t able to cut their toenails, along with a bit of wound care, biomechanics and nail surgery.

“Over the years, our whole profession has had to evolve a great deal due to our caseload of patients having increasingly complex needs, often due to people living longer.

“This seems to have accelerated in the last six years as we’re now seeing far more patients for post-operative follow-up care, after they’ve been operated on by our vascular and orthopaedic surgeons – who are also seeing many more patients themselves.

“We are having to do this within the context of a national shortage of podiatrists, and I’m so proud of our team for the incredible resilience that they’ve shown over the past few years in stepping up to the plate. It has been extra challenging as our department is in a period of transformation, which can be unsettling.

“We have some really exciting developments in 2023 that our predecessors could only dream of back in 2003!

“Just a couple of these include how we now have independent prescribers within our department, and we’re also setting up a system of ‘takeaway antibiotics’ so GPs don’t have to do the actual prescribing, saving time – this is something I’d never come across before.

“We’re also looking at developing a new policy where most of our podiatrists can order patient x-rays, again to relieve our GP colleagues of this pressure – this will greatly improve the overall care that our patients get from us.

“In the last eight months we’ve been able to halve our waiting list, though we know that some patients have been waiting a long time, and we’re working through this.

“We know that there’s still a lot to do though, and we do still have staffing challenges, but one area where we’ve improved on is putting in a new coding system that allows us to check whether a patient’s ulcer gets worse over time.

“The absolute jewel in our crown is our preceptorship programme, as when we take on a new graduate, we give them a six month preceptorship period, which is essentially their transition period from student to a qualified podiatrist.

“We support them through all aspects of their assessments, trust policies, and systems, and we give them a decent amount of exposure to all the sub-specialisms, such as podiatric surgery, so they have an opportunity to rotate and shadow.

“The first two colleagues we put through this preceptorship programme are absolutely outstanding, and the feedback we’ve had from them about the programme has been tremendous – great news for our recruitment and retention of colleagues!

“We also have an excellent apprenticeship system where we have two apprentices in the service – one in our booking office, who’s outstanding, and we’re taking on another apprentice this year too, so we will always aim to have two within our service.

“We’re bucking the trend nationally because we’ve gone from a service that colleagues don’t really want to work in, to having people constantly asking us whether we have any vacancies.

“This is in part because of the direction we’ve had and our leadership structure, as well as the preceptorship and apprenticeship programmes. Together, these make our podiatry service a really good place to work.

“It’s fair to say that the satisfaction of colleagues in our team is at its highest for 10 years, and the retention of colleagues is the best it has ever been – it’s a great time to work in podiatry!”

Here’s to the next 20 years of Somerset’s podiatry service!