Prof Keith Harding, Prof Michael Clark and Dr Douglas Queen from the Wound Healing Unit at Cardiff University details the significant problems wounds can cause, and how innovation is helping alleviate some of these.
Each year millions of people world-wide experience wounds that arise through multiple causes including surgery, burns, accidents, poor blood supply to the legs (venous leg ulcers), a consequence of diabetes (diabetic foot ulcers) and through illness, and poor mobility (pressure ulcers also known as bedsores).
Regardless of the cause, wounds that fail to heal are a significant problem to patients and health services. Pressure ulcers may cost the NHS almost 4% of its annual budget to both prevent and treat, but for individuals living with a wound this often entails pain, social isolation (often as a consequence of malodour or where fluids leak from the wound), and a significantly reduced quality of life.
Given the heavy costs both financially for health services and for the lives of patients, there has been great interest over recent years in new approaches both to prevent wound development and to speed wound healing. Over the past 5 decades technology has been innovated through synthetic materials, cellular based therapies and molecular diagnostics. However innovation in wound healing is not limited to new product development.
Innovative working among clinicians and researchers has increased given recent developments, both in communication technology and social media. For example, clinical guidelines for the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers will be released in the late summer of 2014, which have been developed jointly by 3 organisations working in the United States, Europe and in the Pan-Pacific region. These new guidelines will help to standardise the care patients receive to help reduce the occurrence of pressure ulcers across a large part of the world, a development that would have been possible without the availability of easy methods to communicate face-to-face frequently across multiple time-zones.
Innovation in wound care can go far beyond the traditional models of care delivery in hospitals or GP surgeries. The Lindsay Leg Club Foundation support a growing number of Leg Clubs across the UK, Europe and Australia. A Leg Club is a unique partnership between local nursing services and their communities, and operate in non-healthcare settings, including community and church halls with a body of community volunteers running them and nurses attending to deliver lower leg treatment mainly for venous leg ulcers. Members of the clubs can attend for advice, active treatment of leg problems or just for company and a cup of tea. They are an example of social innovation that can change where and how wound treatments are delivered with reported benefits in terms of patient satisfaction with their care.
The recent creation of the Welsh Wound Innovation Initiative is the first national wound centre world-wide with the responsibility for improving both the health of patients with wounds in Wales, and also the wealth of the country through attracting inward investment by wound care companies that seek to partner with the strong expertise in wound healing in Wales. This new initiative highlights that wounds are increasingly being viewed as a major health care issue that affects millions of lives, and absorbs large amounts of health service funding.
Professor Keith Harding CBE, Professor Michael Clark & Dr Douglas Queen
Wound Healing Research Unit, Cardiff University
Tel: +44 (0)29 2074 4505