The European Parliament adopted another report this week focused on safety in healthcare highlighting the huge costs to healthcare systems, not to mention the enormous costs to patients, for preventable injuries, complications and infections. While I admire the Parliament’s attention to these issues, it is still clear that many of the calls for improved monitoring of patient safety and mitigating steps to avoid such events still fall on deaf ears at the national level. This is particularly relevant to the wound care community, given the stubborn incidence of pressure ulcers and surgical site infections which occur in healthcare facilities.
Patient safety in wound care
Safety is especially important in wound care where appropriate treatment can help prevent the development or prolongation of a wound as well as adverse outcomes such as infection or amputation. Advanced wound care treatments have a significant role to play in the prevention of patient safety events such as pressure ulcers and surgical site infections, particularly in hospital settings. When managed inappropriately these events can result in avoidable morbidity, extended hospital stays and even mortality.
While the EU institutions recognize at a macro level that appropriate care and treatment can deliver improved efficiency – essentially improved outcomes at lower cost – at a national level the focus remains on cost containment. Driven by austerity measures and increasing demands, most healthcare decision makers revert to managing budgets on a short-term basis and look for cost savings, particularly in the procurement of medical supplies. This issue is worsened by an absence of accurate, routinely collected data on patient safety events across many EU health systems. Whilst some health systems, such as the English NHS, have implemented data collection on pressure ulcers and surgical site infections, this remains highly variable across member states. The absence of data means that it is impossible to quantify the scale of the problem and any improvement that might result from investment in advanced therapies. In light of this, it is unsurprising that many policy makers revert to cost as the basis for their procurement decisions.
Why the Parliamentary report matters
It’s no secret that own-initiative reports are non-binding on Member States, but the report does carry weight given the legislative power of the Members of the European Parliament. Having adopted this report in plenary, it does provide the opportunity for those of us working towards implementing better wound care treatments for patients to discuss with local politicians why calls for multidisciplinary approaches, better data collection and appropriate training of healthcare professionals remains lacklustre in many of our home territories.
What we want for patients
We as industry representatives are committed to securing high quality of care for patients and the advanced wound care sector has enormous potential to lessen the degree to which patients are impacted by patient safety issues and problematic wounds. Proper diagnosis and treatment of wounds will result in efficiency gains and cost savings to health systems. The EU is already recognising this. However, until wound care is part of national patient safety programmes, I fear that the work of MEPs will continue to be lost in the EU bubble.