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Pressure Ulcers: tackling a problem of Titanic proportions

Allied Health Professions and Personal and Public Involvement

Pressure Ulcers: tackling a problem of Titanic proportions

In support of the 1st Worldwide Stop Pressure Ulcer Day, (16 November) the Tissue Viability Nurse Network, Northern Ireland (TVNN NI) today, 14 November, hosted a conference to raise awareness of pressure ulcer prevention, at which the Public Health Agency (PHA), launched a new information leaflet* for patients and carers.

Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores or pressure sores, are a type of injury that affects areas of the skin and underlying tissue due to the lack of blood and oxygen supply. They are caused by a combination of factors including pressure, shear forces, friction and moisture.

Pressure ulcers can range in severity from patches of discoloured skin to open wounds that expose the underlying bone or muscle.

Mary McElroy, Patient Safety, Quality and Patient Experience lead, PHA, said: “Pressure ulcers are a widespread and often underestimated health problem in Northern Ireland and across the world. It is estimated that just fewer than half a million people in the UK will develop at least one pressure ulcer in any given year.

“Anyone can get a pressure ulcer but some people are more likely to develop them than others.”

Risk factors for pressure ulcers include:

  • mobility problems – anything that affects your ability to move some or all of your body
  • poor nutrition – for your skin to remain healthy it requires nutrients that can only be supplied by eating a nutritious diet
  • an underlying health condition, which disrupts your blood supply or makes your skin more vulnerable to injury and damage
  • being over 70 years old
  • urinary incontinence and/or bowel incontinence
  • pressure from a hard surface, such as a bed or wheelchair
  • pressure that is placed on the skin through involuntary muscle movements, such as muscle spasms

Mary continued: “Pressure ulcer prevention presents an important challenge in acute care hospitals.  As a result the Regional Pressure Ulcer Prevention Group, led by the PHA, has been formed to provide advice, support and share Regional learning across Northern Ireland. The PHA and the Health and Social Care Safety Forum, are working collaboratively with in the first instance the 5 Health and Social Care Trusts (HSCTs), to advise on, influence and evaluate the direction of the Pressure Ulcer Prevention Program within Northern Ireland.

“This leaflet is the newest publication to come from the group and provides patients and carers with helpful hints and tips to prevent or heal pressure ulcers. The aim of the leaflet is to, in the first instance, prevent pressure ulcers from occurring and secondly to identify the warning signs so that treatment can be given hen it is most defective.”

Gillian Carnduff, Chair of the TVNN NI said:  “Pressure ulcers can be unpleasant, upsetting and challenging to treat. Therefore, healthcare professionals use a range of techniques that are designed to prevent pressure ulcers developing in the first place. These include regularly changing a person’s position,using equipment, such as specially designed mattresses and cushions, to protect vulnerable parts of the body as well as modern dressing products to aid healing. This leaflet will help us work with patients and carers to prevent and manage pressure ulcers.”

Paul Kinnear, suffered from a pressure ulcer, speaking about the impact they have have on the persons he said; “It takes over your life, you don’t control it, it controls you. You have to wait on District Nurses coming to do dressings before you can go out. When you are confined to bed you miss all the family events, it dominates your life.”

Further information

Contact PHA Communications on (028) 9055 3663.

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