Can’t we stop pressure ulcers?

  • Posted on 17.11.2015

Can’t we stop pressure ulcers?


Paul Trueman

Chair, Eucomed Advanced Wound Care Sector Group; Vice-President of Market Access Smith & Nephew


The general consensus is that the majority of pressure ulcers are deemed ‘avoidable.’ Yet, as we approach another Stop Pressure Ulcer Day (19 November), I see avoidable pressure ulcers still occurring everyday across all sites of care.  It seems to me that current guidelines, policies and training programmes are still insufficient to tackle this growing problem.

Together with my industry colleagues, I have been calling for the inclusion of wounds, and particularly pressure ulcers, in national patient safety policies throughout because they are preventable.  Pressure ulcers are an adverse event that have high costs for patients and health systems. 

Given the impact of pressure ulcers on health systems, I continuously have asked, “Why isn’t more being done to stop pressure ulcers? How can we support better prevention?”

The fact is that preventing pressure ulcers, and wounds in general, means working across care silos and ensuring that healthcare professionals from all disciplines know how to manage at-risk patients.

Prevention of pressure ulcers also means focused training and specialised care when necessary which requires investment at a time when many health systems are focused on cost-containment. Yet, we know that additional investment will be more than recouped through the avoidance of extended hospital stays and ongoing care.  Surely, the avoidance of adverse events and complications results in benefits for both patients and health systems.

Under the Italian Presidency, Member States called on the Commission to work towards a better understanding of the cost-effectiveness of patient safety policies, but little has been done since the adoption of the Council Conclusions to promote long-term investment in patient safety generally – much less specifically for the prevention and management of pressure ulcers. 

I therefore believe that as stakeholders we must urge both national and EU policymakers to commit to, and invest in, patient safety policies that prevent adverse events like pressure ulcers. Pressure ulcer prevention must be part of the work by the Commission and Member States on health system performance assessment.  Preventing adverse events needs to be a consideration of a well performing system.

With better data collection on incidence, appropriate training of healthcare professionals, and access to prevention and treatment therapies, we can reduce long-term costs for patients and health systems.  We can avoid the pain and discomfort that comes with pressure ulcers, and health systems can avoid the costly care associated with these preventable events. 

We just need political leadership to make Stop Pressure Ulcer Day a thing of the past.

To find out more about Stop Pressure Ulcer Day please click here.

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