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#StopThePressure – raising awareness of pressure ulcers

At least £3.8million a day is spent by the NHS on the treatment of pressure ulcers in England alone

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Ralph Charlwood, ambassador for SMSR

Calls are being made by spinal injury charities to support NHS staff this winter by raising awareness of the consequences of pressure ulcers. 

Today – November 17 – marks Stop the Pressure Day, an annual campaign to shine a light on the devastating but avoidable consequences of pressure ulcers. 

Figures show that at least £3.8million a day could be saved for the NHS through prevention of pressure ulcers, and avoiding the daily cost of treatment in England alone. 

Earlier this week, members of the House of Lords met to discuss what can be done to improve the treatment of pressure ulcers in hospitals as part of an All-Party Parliamentary Group. 

Pressure ulcers are hard to diagnose and difficult to treat, and while they can happen to anyone, they usually affect people confined to bed or who sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time. 

They can have serious implications for patients, affecting both their physical and emotional health and dramatically decreasing their quality of life. 

Ralph Charlwood, ambassador for Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research, who lives with the daily complications of spinal cord injury, said: “When people think of pressure sores, they usually think of old people confined to a bed. They don’t think of active people getting them whilst driving, or on an aeroplane, or just having a pair of shoes that were a little too tight.

“Many with complete spinal injuries cannot feel anything and might have a usual level of spasm, so when a pressure ulcer is caused, they’re unaware, and by the time they do notice, it’s too late. 

“Unfortunately, the solution is usually keeping pressure off the area. Sometimes that can be accommodated without adversely affecting daily routine but for far too many people it means prolonged bed rest, which may affect the ability to work and has negative consequences for mental health too.”

Pressure sores often start as a simple red mark just as Sue Mould’s from Lichfield in Staffordshire did. 

Sue is spinal cord injured and her pressure ulcer went undiagnosed for many months by her GP surgery who dressed the wound, not realising that beneath the surface the damage was already done.  

As a consequence, Sue developed sepsis and was rushed to hospital, spending six months being treated for a condition which was entirely avoidable.

Sally Jones, 48, lives with repeated pressure ulcers.

“I’m currently fighting pressure sore number 23,” she says. 

“Number 22 saw me being rushed to A&E with osteomyelitis as a result of an infected sore on my left foot. Thankfully they managed to save the foot, but amputation was discussed. These things are frighteningly serious. “

Sally believes early identification is key, adding: “I carry out thorough skin checks religiously as soon as I wake up and as I’m getting ready for bed – I find that good lighting and a mirror are a must to carry this out effectively.

“I also do a fingertip check over vulnerable areas each time I go to the bathroom to identify the first hint of a bump, mark or blister on my skin.”

Karen Biggs, a specialist nurse at the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) said: “Knowledge is power and we support many to become an expert in their own condition. 

“We know that it is not always easy or possible to spot an ulcer in a hidden area and we support education amongst community nurses, general hospitals and the care sector. 

“Simple specialist knowledge can save lives and mental trauma.”

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