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Swansea team earns nomination for tackling real pressure point

Staff at Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB) have taken part in a successful drive to reduce the chances of patients with limited mobility developing pressure ulcers.

Now they have been nominated for an NHS Wales Award.

Pressure ulcers – sometimes misleadingly known as bed sores – are often preventable, but can cause patients unnecessary discomfort, and can even endanger life if they become infected, sometimes leading to claims of negligence.

To address the issue, SBUHB has teamed up with the Welsh Risk Pool (WRP), which supports health bodies in Wales to improve patient safety.

The results have led to the nomination in the Providing Services in Partnership category of the NHS Wales Awards 2019.

Through working in partnership with the WRP and health care professionals, SBUHB has ensured it looked at the topic with a fresh pair of eyes.

Senior Tissue Viability Nurse Karen Kembery said:

“Pressure ulcers can cause untold harm to patients, through pain, discomfort, delay in rehabilitation and prolonged admissions. The burden on healthcare is also considerable, in terms of financial cost and delays in recovery and discharge.

“Against this backdrop, Swansea Bay University Health Board adopted a zero-tolerance approach to avoidable pressure damage in April 2017 and through an innovative partnership with Welsh Risk Pool embarked on a journey to reduce avoidable pressure damage in our care year on year, with an aim of igniting the roll out of improvement strategies once piloted locally.”

Of the nomination she added: “I am extremely proud to be part of the team nominated for the NHS Wales awards. Our work focuses on improving patient safety by preventing patients suffering harm from pressure ulcers and this nomination will help us share our innovative improvement work and raise awareness of pressure ulcer prevention.”

The aims of the partnership were to:

  • Better understand the issues contributing to pressure ulcers
  • To identify causal factors leading to pressure damage
  • To work with the tissue viability teams across Wales to identify good practice and areas for development
  • To share learning across both organisations
  • To improve patient safety and outcomes
  • To develop a strategic quality improvement plan for the organisation which could be replicated in other health boards
  • To reduce the incidence of healthcare acquired pressure damage occurring within SBUHB by at least 10% across both the in-patient and community population.

A special task force was set up to implement change.

Unit Nurse Director Lesley Jenkins said: “We established the Pressure Ulcer Prevention Strategic Group (PUPSG) after recognising that pressure damage prevention cannot be achieved in isolation by nursing staff.

“PUPSG is a multi-disciplinary collaboration with representatives from the service delivery units within the health board, including representatives from specialist tissue viability nurses (TVNs), physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dietetics, safeguarding, corporate nursing and serious incident team representatives.

“To help keep the impact on patients at the forefront of our minds PUPSG meetings are started with a patient story.”

Lesley said: “The organisation has seen a reduction in pressure damage across the health board with some acute hospital sites seeing a significant improvement in the number of incidents reported.

“There was a 29% reduction in serious pressure ulcers 2018/19 compared to the previous year. This highlights the steady and sustained reduction in serious pressure ulcers during the lifecycle of the project to date.”

The lessons learned from the study will now be shared throughout the health board and NHS across Wales.

Judging panels, drawn from across NHS Wales, the public sector and professional bodies will now visit each finalist to find out more about the projects and see first-hand the benefits they’ve brought to patients.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Cardiff on September 19th.