The devastating impact of chronic wounds has been laid bare as research reveals that hundreds of thousands of patients suffer with pain and immobility for more than a year.
One in ten sufferers is even taking antidepressants to cope, with many more unable to work or leave the house.
About a million patients are undergoing five dressing changes a week, with 90 per cent of those claiming their quality of life is severely affected.
New research has shown that hundreds of thousands of patients are being left to suffer from chronic leg wounds for more than a year
More than 2.8 million Britons are living with a chronic wound, defined as one that does not heal within three months.
But the ‘new normal’ is that patients are affected for eight months, according to the survey by Swedish health firm Molnlycke, with an estimated 300,000 going beyond the one-year mark.
Although normal care for wounds such as cuts and grazes involves keeping the area clean and covered, in the case of chronic wound there is often also a problem with the circulation – a result of another underlying condition such as diabetes or heart disease – that means standard care does not lead to healing.
Vascular surgeon John Scurr, an expert in chronic wound care, claims sufferers are being ‘fobbed off’ and given wrong treatment, leading to long-term problems.
‘The reason these wounds aren’t healing is because patients aren’t getting the care they need,’ he says. ‘Given the right treatment, it can six to 12 weeks, but this may require surgery and medication, given by specialist doctors and nurses. Often patients are simply in the care of their local GP, who is only able to give dressings. They are really just being fobbed off.’
Dr Una Adderley, of the Legs Matter campaign for better wound care, said: ‘Community nurses are under pressure when it comes to wound patients’
Just four per cent of patients surveyed said they were under the care of a specialist nurse at a wound care clinic.
Dr Una Adderley, of the Legs Matter campaign for better wound care, said: ‘Community nurses are under pressure when it comes to wound patients.’
Dr Adderley, a lecturer in community nursing at Leeds University, added: ‘In this study, patients report an average dressing time of 18 minutes, but this is rarely enough time to provide the care that is needed.’
The burden of living with a wound impacts on patients’ lives, with 18 per cent unable to work full-time and a further 15 per cent unable to work at all. The problem can also lead to social isolation, with more than a quarter seeing friends or family less and nearly half struggling to exercise or walk for long periods.
Many patients rely on painkillers or sleeping pills to ease their discomfort. One in ten patients reported needing antidepressants.
- For more information, visit legsmatter.org