Hospitals innovating to reduce pressure ulcers

Wards across Lincolnshire’s hospitals have been equipped with a simple new tool to help in the early assessment and identification of a serious painful condition in patients.

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Wards across Lincolnshire’s hospitals have been equipped with a simple new tool to help in the early assessment and identification of a serious painful condition in patients.

New heel pressure ulcer mirrors have been purchased for every ward run by United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

These mirrors can be used by nursing and support staff to observe the heels of patients, helping the staff to quickly identify any skin changes on the heel that could lead to pressure damage. This means action can be taken early to prevent painful and debilitating pressure ulcers.

Pressure ulcers are a type of injury that affects areas of the skin and underlying tissue, caused when the affected area of skin is placed under too much pressure for a prolonged period of time. They can range in severity from patches of discoloured skin to open wounds that expose the underlying bone or muscle.

Lincolnshire’s hospitals have a very good track record at managing them, and innovating to reduce the numbers of patients affected. In recent years the incidence of pressure ulcers in ULHT hospitals has reduced by nearly 40% to 0.9%, compared with the national reported incidence rate of 4-6%.

Tissue viability nurse specialist Emma Osborne said the idea for the mirrors came about following discussions about how they could help staff to look at patients’ heels.

“Our staff routinely check patients for early signs of pressure damage so that action can be taken to prevent things getting worse. They are very good at checking the back and bottom area, which is where a lot of damage is often found, but they were less good at checking heels,” she said.

“It can be difficult to check a heel though, as it means you either have to get the patient up, which isn’t always possible, or you have to make them move their leg into quite an uncomfortable position so that you can see”.

“These simple little mirrors mean our staff can look at patients heels very easily, with only a slight movement of the leg.”

The mirrors are small enough to be kept in a pocket so that they are always available to use.

“Staff have responded really well to them, and we hope they will result in positive benefits for patients, as any skin damage will be identified and acted upon more quickly,” said Emma.