STAFF shortages have been blamed after it emerged that a strict target aimed at eradicating bed sores from Lothian hospital wards will be missed.
NHS Lothian had said in February last year that no patients should go to hospital and develop the painful pressure ulcers – which can lead to potentially life-threatening infections such as blood poisoning and gangrene – by next month.
However, new figures have revealed cases are on the rise with one patient a day acquiring a sore, forcing health bosses to admit they will not achieve their self-imposed goal.
The injuries are usually prevented by nurses who should regularly move patients or use specialist equipment to protect vulnerable areas – leading to fears the increase is a symptom of the pressure staff are under.
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said that for patients affected, pressure ulcers were a “real concern”.
She added: “This is ultimately an issue of patient comfort and the level of care they receive. Reducing this issue to a line on a graph ignores the underlying reasons for the increase. Staffing levels, work pressures and bed blocking presumably all exacerbate the situation and point to the real pressure on resources that continues to afflict the health board. Moreover it’s worrying that the problem is getting worse – not getting better.”
NHS Lothian bosses were this month held to account for the rise at a meeting of the board.
Dr Richard Williams, a city GP, said: “It should be at zero now but they seem to be climbing. This reflects primarily on nursing care.”
Melanie Johnson, NHS Lothian’s director of scheduled care, said that while in some “extreme cases” bed sores could be unavoidable if patients came to NHS Lothian with damaged skin, they should largely be seen as a “never event”. But quizzed over whether the health board would meet its target, she admitted: “I would have to say no.”
The internal NHS Lothian figures show that in December around 30 patients developed bedsores – the highest figure recorded since April 2012.
Norman Provan, associate director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, described the position NHS Lothian found itself in with regard to pressure ulcers as “concerning” and said it was a “reflection of the continuing strain that local staff are under”.
Carol Crowther, NHS Lothian’s deputy nurse director, said the health board was “determined to eradicate the number of patients who develop pressure ulcers while in hospital”.
She added: “While cases across Lothian are very small – less than one a day – we remain committed to reducing that figure further to zero.
“As a result, we have introduced enhanced training on the effective implementation of pressure ulcer management and underlining the importance of identifying patients who are at risk.
“We have also begun appointing ‘champions’ into every clinical area to provide advice and support to ensure that avoidable ulcers are prevented.”