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The Cost of Pressure Ulcers

“The cost of pressure ulcers to the NHS are estimated to be £1.4 – £2.2 billion annually, making pressure ulcers the single most costly chronic wound to the NHS”

Pressure care is a daily challenge for healthcare professionals when caring for bed-bound and immobile patients. While NHS budgets are hit by austerity measures and the cost of pressure care constantly increases, experts in the field are racing to find solutions to improve healing rates and the patient experience.

As Tissue Viability Nurses across the UK educate colleagues and issue guidelines designed to prevent vulnerable patients developing wounds, they are faced with increasing demands on the service from an ageing and growing population. Nearly 7,000,000 people across all care settings will be affected by a pressure ulcer each year with predictions that by 2020 the cost of wound care for the average CCG will reach £55m. (UCLH NHS)

Very simply, pressure sores develop when a large amount of pressure is applied to an area of skin over a short period of time. The extra pressure disrupts the blood flow and the affected skin becomes starved of oxygen and nutrients, which causes it to break down and ulcers begin to form [2]. Most affected are those aged over 75 as their skin becomes thinner and frailer.

The cost of pressure ulcers

The cost of pressure ulcers to the patient

Patients who develop pressure ulcers become extremely uncomfortable and painful wounds can cause patients to have trouble sleeping, which in turn hinders recovery speed.  In severe cases, pressure ulcers can result in major harm or death.

Research into pressure care over recent years has helped to educate healthcare professionals to deliver greater preventative care and improved healing rates.  Opinion on the outlook for pressure care is mixed but best nursing practice and the appropriate medical equipment can certainly move patient care in the right direction.

 

Why does pressure care cost so much?

The cost of the healthcare professional accounts for 90% of the overall costs for treating pressure ulcers, with the remaining 10% being spent on treatment and specialist equipment [4].  With up to four people required to reposition a patient every 2 hours, you can easily see how costs for pressure ulcer care can be high.

As new, innovative equipment is developed to support Tissue Viability Nurses and Pressure Care Professionals implement pressure ulcer reduction initiatives, the standards of healing will improve.  Foam and dynamic mattresses, positioning cushions and automated positioning systems such as the Ekamove, reduce the amount of manual intervention required while delivering personalised care.

The cost of treating a pressure ulcer varies between £1,064 to £10,551 depending on the Grade [6]. The costs increase with ulcer grade for a number of different reasons including the time taken to heal and the likelihood of complications in the most severe of cases.  For severe cases where surgery is required the cost could be up to £14,000 [7].

 

cost of healing pressure ulcers

Source

Pressure care in the community

Pressure wounds are not just a hospital or care home challenge.  As people are discharged to their homes, their care will often fall to loved ones.   These ‘unpaid carers’ are doing so against a backdrop of cuts to social security and local care services. This is not only unacceptable but dangerously unsustainable. If carers aren’t supported to care well for both themselves and their loved ones, the NHS and other public services would be forced to step in. With NHS and local authority budgets already stretched to their limits, this would bring them to their knees. (Care UK)

 

Stop the Pressure

With the cost of pressure ulcers to the NHS continually rising people are becoming more and more concerned with how they can be prevented. Over the last few years, a ‘Stop the Pressure’ SSKIN campaign has been launched to help raise awareness to those that may not already know the warning signs and indicators, giving them a detailed guide to follow when caring for all vulnerable patients.

SSKIN is a five-step model for pressure ulcer prevention [8] and includes the following:

  • Surface: Make sure patients have the correct support
  • Skin inspection: early inspections mean early detection
  • Keep patients moving
  • Incontinence/moisture: make sure your patients are always clean and dry
  • Nutrition/hydration: give patients a healthy diet and plenty of fluids

4% of the NHS budget is currently attributed to pressure care with all forecasts predicting an increase in line with a growing, ageing demographic.  Priority must be given to the prevention and fast healing of pressure wounds, using education and technology to reduce the pressure on patients, healthcare professionals and the NHS alike.

To find out how Mangar Health can help assist you with pressure care prevention please contact us here.

[1] https://www.england.nhs.uk/2014/01/stop-the-pressure/

[2] http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pressure-ulcers/pages/introduction.aspx

[3] https://www.england.nhs.uk/2014/01/stop-the-pressure/

[4] https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg179/resources/costing-statement-24868810

[5] http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB17903

[6]http://www.practical-patient-care.com/features/featureppc-wound-care-costs-paul-trueman-smith-nephew/

[7] http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/content/33/3/230.abstract

[8] http://harmfreecare.org/2012/04/nhsmideast-stopthepressure/



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