A member of the UK parliament has emphasised the need for a national wound care strategy during a recent debate in the House of Commons, highlighting that “diagnosis is difficult, but rapid diagnosis is absolutely essential”. Ann Clywd, MP for the Welsh constituency of Cynon Valley, brought forward the debate due to her own experience of suffering with a chronic wound.
Describing it as “the most painful thing I have ever come across,” Clywd arrived at Parliament straight from her hospital bed to speak on the subject of lower limb wound care. In response to a debate held in the House of Lords, which revealed that wound care is a massive challenge to the NHS—but one that lacks priority or investment—the MP called for urgent action to improve the standard of care.
It was noted that, according to a speech delivered by Una Adderley (Wakefield, UK) at the Health Service Journal patient safety congress, leg ulcers represent 40% of chronic wounds but only 7% of the chronic wounds that are treated.
Clywd added that “while 60% of all wounds heal within a year, a huge resource has to be committed to managing untreated wounds”, with the cost of treating two million patients with wounds every year estimated to be over £5 billion.
One of the key problems impacting wound care across the UK, as argued by Clywd, is that “healing takes far too long”. She said: “I am told that, ideally, 70% of venous leg ulcerations should heal within 12 to 16 weeks, and 98% in 24 weeks. In reality, however, research shows that healing rates at six months have been reported as low as 9%, with infection rates as high as 58%.”
Looking ahead to the future, Clywd warned that without a national strategy which prioritises faster diagnoses and the prevention of infection, as well as providing more investment, patients will receive worse care for their injuries, while costs for other parts of the NHS will continue to rise.
Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Social Care, responded to calls for a new strategy during the debate, stating that “I think we all recognise the importance of ensuring that patients have access to high-quality lower limb wound care”.
She announced: “Our priority is for leg ulcers of this type to be treated early and in the community when that is possible, without the need for further hospital admissions or GP appointments. I think that that preventative approach is right for patients and for the system. It is key for wound care to be delivered effectively and efficiently.
“That is why NHS England and NHS Improvement have commissioned the Academic Health Science Network to develop and deliver a national wound care strategy programme for England, which aims to improve the quality of wound care provision. It is a comprehensive programme, which covers improving prevention of pressure ulcers, wound care of the lower leg, and management of surgical wounds.”
The programme, which began its work in 2018, aims to take a data-driven approach to developing national clinical standards of care, improving patient experience and outcomes, as well as working alongside the industry to ensure that wound care products are reaching patients at the right time. There are also plans to improve the provision of wound care training.