NHS wound specialist nurses in Oxfordshire are aiming to raise awareness about pressure damage – what it is, what the risks are and how it can be prevented.

21 November is worldwide ‘Stop Pressure Ulcer Day’ which aims to raise an awareness of pressure ulcers (which are also known as pressure sores or bed sores). Pressure ulcers are injuries to the skin that occur over bony prominences as a result of pressure. Without appropriate intervention the damage may worsen, developing into painful, open wounds that can be life-threatening.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Community Tissue Viability Team provides specialist advice and support to healthcare professionals who are managing complex wounds within the community of Oxfordshire. In partnership with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, the Tissue Viability Team is taking a health bus to the John Radcliffe hospital on 21 November to raise awareness about this condition that is estimated to cost the NHS between £1.4 to £2.1 billion a year. They hope to provide advice and information to both hospital patients, visitors and staff on the risks of pressure damage and how to avoid it.

Tissue viability nurse Linda Binaccioni said: “95% of pressure damage is believed to be avoidable, so we’re keen to advise about ways to prevent it happening. We also want to highlight some of the early signs to people so that they can seek help before their skin becomes damaged.”

While pressure on the skin as a result of poor mobility is the main cause of damage, there are other factors that can contribute, including poor circulation, moist skin, lack of sensitivity to pain, previous tissue or skin damage or inadequate diet or fluid intake. The most common sites of pressure damage are the heels, hips and bottom.

Linda Binaccioni added: “There are several ways you can reduce the risk of pressure ulcers.

Regularly change your position to keep blood flowing; check your skin for pressure damage at least once a day (red areas) and do not continue to lie on skin that is redder or darker than usual.

Also watch out for blisters, dry patches or breaks in the skin. Pain in your heels can be a sign of developing skin damage. When washing, try to avoid using heavily perfumed soaps and avoid talcum powder as these can soak up the skin’s natural oils leading to vulnerable dry areas. Also, make sure you eat a healthy balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. Extra protein may help.”

If you are worried that you or someone you care for may be at risk of developing a pressure ulcer then contact your GP surgery and ask to talk to a practice nurse or district nurse.

For more information, go to http://www.epuap.org/stop-pressure-ulcer-day/