Europe’s wound care gap: are member states actually paying attention to what the EU is saying?

  • Posted on 06.11.2014

Europe’s wound care gap: are member states actually paying attention to what the EU is saying?


Paul Trueman

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


When the European Commission published its secondary report on patient safety, it made me wonder why advanced wound care is not higher on the patient safety agenda at EU and national levels? Not that it’s a competition, but the incidence of wounds in the EU is approximately 4 million (!), which is on par with cancer (3,9 mill), cerebrovascular disease (3,9 mill), and diabetes (2 mill.).

The wound care debated has progressed for sure, but there’s much more do to be done to make sure than wound care in Europe gets the attention it deserves.

The EU’s on the right track, but…

I was delighted to see that the Commission’s report considered many of the issues inherent in safe wound care treatment, such as multidisciplinary teams, training of healthcare professionals and patient safety guidelines for non-hospital settings.[i] Even more, the Commission specifically addressed the fact that “attention should also be put on improving patient safety in primary care and wound care.”[ii]

Yet, the fact remains that much more needs to be done at national level in terms of implementing the Council Recommendations from 2009, as well as expanding these recommendations to focus on access to advanced wound care. Many of the wounds experienced by citizens everyday are a result of poor patient safety – particularly pressure ulcers – and such experiences need to be better reported by healthcare institutions. Greater data on preventable wounds will become ever more important given that wound incidence is likely to increase significantly with the changing population demographics and the predicted rise in the number of older persons.

A national matter

While the EU continues to foster safety for patients nationally via its support of the European Network on Patient Safety and Quality of Care, it is still left to individual countries to implement best practice guidelines on the use of advanced wound care treatments if we are to see any reduction in the number of patients impacted by unnecessary wound complications. Both Ireland[iii] and Denmark[iv] have been leading the charge on the elimination of pressure ulcers through targeted, multidisciplinary campaigns and advanced wound care projects, but other Member States have not followed suit. While the Italian Presidency has prioritised patient safety as part of its health agenda and will speak about safety as part of quality care at its event this week, it remains to be seen whether Member States will take further steps to ensure that best practice guidelines on advanced wound care will be part of national patient safety programmes.

Advanced wound care matters in patient safety because at the end of the day, it is not only health systems that suffer the costs of unnecessary wound complications to patients[v] – but more importantly patients and their families.

What do Europe’s patients need?

Given that infection is the most frequently occurring complication of non-healing wounds, ensuring patients have access to advanced wound care products and services is undoubtedly essential for protecting against the consequences of improper wound care such as pressure ulcers and surgical site infections.

We need to makes sure patients get what they need and we need to get serious about making advanced wound care part of national patient safety programmes so that unnecessary risks to patients in all countries are minimised.

– Paul Trueman, Chairman, Advanced Wound Care Sector Group, Eucomed 

[i]  European Commission. Patient Safety and Healthcare Associated Infections: Report from the Commission to the Council June 2014.

[ii] European Commission. Public Consultation on Patient Safety and Quality of Care. 19 June 2014.

[iii] Health Service Executive : National Operational Plan 2013, Implementing the National Service Plan 2013.

[iv] Danish Society for Patient Safety. Danish Safer Hospital Programme 2010-2013.

[v] The cost of a problematic wound is between 6.650-10.000€, and the total cost of wound care accounts for 2-4 % of European health care budgets (Gottrup et all. 2010)

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