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Bed sores skyrocket by 508% in Welsh NHS

Welsh Conservatives can reveal that reported pressure ulcers have increased from 184 in 2014/15 to 1,119 in 2017/18 – an increase of 508%.

Three health boards and Velindre Trust have seen year-on-year rises since 2014/15, while the remaining four health boards all have reported higher numbers of cases last year than in 2014/15 or 2015/16. All but one of them (Cwm Taf UHB) saw a rise on last year.

The data, sourced via a Written Assembly Question, shows North Wales’ Betsi Cadwaladr health board – soon to hit its third anniversary of being in special measures and under direct Welsh Government control – recorded 497 bed sores last year, accounting for 44% of all national cases.

The second and third highest were recorded by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Cwm Taf health boards, recording 166 and 161 cases, respectively. They were followed by Aneurin Bevan with 85, Cardiff and Vale with 83, and Hywel Dda with 76. Powys THB recorded the fewest cases – 46 – while Velindre NHS Trust had five.

The numbers account for both community and hospital reported cases, so not all occurred under the care of medical professionals.

However, figures for those reported by a hospital also paint a negative picture, increasing year-on-year from 94 in 2014/15 to 332 in 2017/18. Here, only two health boards (Aneurin Bevan and Hywel Dda) have seen an improvement on 2014/15 numbers. When taking hospitals alone into consideration, five health boards had a higher rate last year than in any of the previous three, with the other two (Aneurin Bevan and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg) had their second worst rate of the last four years.

Betsi Cadwaladr and Cardiff and Vale health boards had year-on-year increases standing at 126 and 79 cases last year, respectively, the former accounting for 38% of the Welsh total.

Shadow Health Cabinet Secretary, Angela Burns AM, said:

“This is very worrying. Bed sores are a terrible condition because they afflict people who already have limited mobility and rely heavily on others.

"Pressure ulcers have a severe impact on the quality of life, often leading to patients feeling isolated and embarrassed, and treating such conditions is estimated to cost nearly ten per cent of the annual Welsh NHS budget.

“Sadly, we again see that the worst performing health board in Wales is Betsi Cadwaladr, proving yet again that the Labour Welsh Government is failing to improve outcomes and standards for patients despite assuming management some three years ago.

“Although the introduction of better reporting guidance is obviously welcomed and partially accounts for the increase in recorded cases, the sheer volume of numbers, especially in hospitals, is indicative of a problem which we need to solve through better training and implementation of innovative technology.”

Welsh Conservative social services spokesperson, Suzy Davies AM, commented:

“I hope that those ulcers that are acquired at hospital level are not contributing to delayed transfers of care. It is vital that people are not staying in a hospital bed for longer than necessary, and so the health sector needs to see the number of bed sores on the way down, not this large increase.

“And if hospital staff can’t halt their increase, then what chance do those outside them have? The huge rise in community-acquired pressure ulcers from 90 in 2015 to 787 this past year show that despite improved guidelines on reporting pressure ulcers, nothing is being learnt from them to prevent more developing.

“If the Welsh Government is serious about tackling this debilitating condition, which just worsens other underlying health conditions, then an updated Carers Strategy needs to be forthcoming from the Minister, something he has already been challenged on in the Senedd.”