CHESHIRE pensioners who enjoy having their feet done on the NHS will soon be forced to pay up following a shake up of the county's free chiropodist service.

The changes come as the Chester West Primary Care Trust (CPCT) chooses to stop healing healthy people's corns and verrucas to concentrate on patients with diabetes or circulatory problems.

The CPCT's new foot policy came into force a few weeks ago and its 7,000 registered patients are now being assessed as to whether they deserve free treatment or not.

The decision to shut out some people who depend on NHS free treatment, is bound to be controversial as many people cannot afford high chiropody prices.

The news was announced as the CPCT pressed ahead with a review which they say has nothing to do with saving money.

CPCT spokeswoman Anne-Marie Storey said: 'All NHS services are provided on the basis of assessed need, not demand, and podiatry is no different.

'This year has seen a major review of the way the podiatry service assesses patients to decide whether or not they are eligible for NHS podiatry treatment.

'This review is also happening in other parts of the country because demand for podiatry services has increased considerably and podiatrists need to focus their time and specialist expertise on patients with an underlying medical condition that directly affects their feet.

'This could range, for example, from a serious medical condition, such as diabetes or circulatory problems, to a disabling foot condition such as arthritis.

'The sort of specialist treatment these patients might need could, for example, be nail surgery or care of a foot wound.

'NHS Podiatry treatment will only be offered to those patients who have an underlying medical condition that directly affects their feet. To decide whether or not they are eligible for treatment, they will be invited to an assessment.

'If people are not eligible for treatment, they will be offered advice about keeping their feet healthy and how they can prevent foot problems by visiting a registered chiropodist, whose details can be obtained from their GP practice or Yellow Pages.'

Patient assessments are being carried out at NHS clinics across Cheshire, including St Martin's Clinic, Blacon Clinic, Lache Clinic and Boughton Clinic.

Assessments, are also being carried out in areas such as Elton, Farndon, Kelsall, Tattenhall, Malpas, Tarporley, Frodsham, Helsby, Bunbury, Audlem and Wrenbury. Patients affected by the changing system are being notified by letter.

Although the CPCT is clear about the people who should benefit, it is less clear about who shouldn't.

'This is not about saving money,' said Mrs Storey. 'It is making sure that NHS podiatrists see people who have serious conditions.

'For example, if a fit 65-year-old has a corn they would be less likely to receive treatment than a 95-year-old with one leg missing who may have circulatory problems. We want to deal with patients in a holistic way.

'This is not to save money but to ensure those people that should be treated are in the queue.' People who want further information should contact the head of podiatry, Moston Lodge, Countess of Chester Health Park, Liverpool Road, Chester, CH2 1UL or call 01244 364823. Will you be affected? Send your views to Chronicle Newsdesk, Chester Chronicle, Commonhall Street, Chester, CH1 2AA.

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