Having written various blogs and articles over the years on different subjects, nothing comes close to the responsibility I’ve felt in writing this one in support of the #StopThePressure movement. Remember every great cause begins as a movement and this one is no exception! Right at the heart of it are tens of 1000’s of supporters (predominantly healthcare professionals) who are taking action every day in pursuit of a common goal to ultimately eliminate pressure ulcers.
Whilst there continue to be many successes evidenced not least by the Midlands and East NHS Region’s 50% reduction in avoidable category 2, 3 and 4 pressure ulcers, I believe that the vast patient carer community sadly remain oblivious of the associated risks, what to look out for and what to do. This belief stems from leading on several patient and carer Focus Groups in support of a wider research programme commissioned by the NHS Midlands and East Region seeking to understand how to ‘motivate’ and ‘educate’ patients and carers around preventing pressure ulcers.
Not forgetting that pressure ulcers can affect anyone, those that read this blog may or may not be tuned-in to the growing number of ‘at risk’ vulnerable groups many of whom I’ve personally met. By definition, these include people with a disability, people in care homes (as well as those receiving care at home), people in hospital or those that perhaps have had a recent hospital stay, those who work in and attend hospices, those in wheelchairs (like me) in addition to the increasing number carers across the country all of whom would benefit from a little education. So how is the #StopThePressure movement going to connect with millions of people across the country?
I believe that in order to ‘educate’, ‘motivate’ and ‘empower’ the public at large in learning how to prevent pressure ulcers, we need a hard hitting, almost shocking campaign that shows the severity of pressure ulcers by using powerful images that create an emotional response. It should be memorable but also give real hope by reminding people that up to 95% of pressure ulcers can be prevented.
Let’s take a quick look at just one of those at-risk groups i.e. those who use wheelchairs. It’s estimated that roughly 2% of the UK population equating to some 1.2 million people are wheelchair users in England – FACT. Of these, approximately 825,000 regularly use NHS wheelchair services – FACT. This is one of many key ‘educational’ channels where a cost effective prevention message could really help in not just reinforcing but uplifting users knowledge in ultimately taking personal responsibility.
Much has been written about the UK’s ageing population which as we all know has considerable consequences for public services. You may be surprised to know that 72% of wheelchair users are over the age of 60yrs – my point is simply that one of the most important risk factors that cause pressure ulcers (if not the most!) is that of immobility, something that I’m now acutely aware of in making sure that I keep moving! At some point in our lives, we may all be at risk of getting a pressure ulcer, and that’s a fact!
Now I’m no healthcare professional but even my eyes watered when I first heard that the cost of pressure ulcers to the NHS is somewhere between £1.4 and £2.4billion each year. Whilst the economic case for investment speaks for itself, it’s my belief that any prevention strategy must ‘speak’ directly to and ‘engage’ with those ‘at-risk’ vulnerable groups, people like 18yr-old powerchair user Jack who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
I vividly recall Jack’s father who attended one of our patient/carer Focus Groups at a hospice in Bedfordshire sharing a story about his son’s new trendy trainers and why he couldn’t understand why his feet and toes hurt for no apparent reason. Jack would wince every time his dad put his socks on but neither thought anything of it! Just a few days later after having reverted back to his old trainers, Jack’s father observed two red weeping sores the size of a 10p coin on both of his son’s heels. “I never thought it could happen to … Jack, I had no idea, I couldn’t understand what was going on but what I now know I’ll never forget. Jack now insists we check him everywhere!”
Most if not all of the different ‘at-risk’ vulnerable groups I’ve spoken to over the past year remembered the British Heart Foundation’s hands-only CPR ‘Hard and Fast’ campaign ‘ that captured the nation’s imagination thanks to footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones carrying out CPR to the disco song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. Not only did it capture people’s attention but two years on people still make the connection to the campaign’s underlying message. Perhaps the time has come to consider an approach to Robbie Williams, Lady Gaga or maybe Justin Bieber … ideas to Lyn McIntyre on a postcard please
When collecting my thoughts in providing some closing #StopThePressure remarks for this blog, two people came to mind – the founder of modern nursing, often referred to as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale who in 1859 wrote, “If he has a bedsore, it’s generally not the fault of the disease, but of the nursing” and the other who in 1943 became the director of the new National Spinal Injury Centre at the emergency medical services hospital at Stoke Mandeville, who founded the Paralympic movement … of course I speak of the remarkable Professor Sir Ludwig ‘Poppa’ Guttmann. Both were presented with impossible challenges, both had steadfast views about how to address pressure ulcers, both possessed that pioneering spirit and in my humble opinion, both were ‘game changers’ or ‘champions of change’.
The #StopThePressure movement already has many ‘champions’ as evidenced most recently by the surge of interest, enthusiasm and commitment from the student nurse community. I applaud the fantastic energy and work going on in this space and whilst I wholeheartedly subscribe to the prevention message, I’m struggling a little with the notion of having an ambition where pressure ulcers become ‘sexy’ as indicated by a Lead Tissue Viability Nurse at the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust. However you interpret this colourful observation, I suspect that Jack’s father might have something to say about it!
My wife and I will continue to play our part in helping drive further awareness and look to establish like-minded partnerships that can facilitate knowledge sharing and ultimately ensure that the impact of the prevention message is heard far and wide. Additionally, we’re urging as many people and organisations that we’re communicating with on specifically the pressure ulcer agenda to link up with NHS Change Day taking place on Monday 3rd March 2014 … the countdown has begun!
In March 2014, it will be three years since we first heard about pressure ulcers at a presentation given by Ruth May as part of an NHS Midlands and East Emerging Leaders Programme. This was an event at which I had been invited to deliver the keynote address on the subject of leadership in times of change. Whilst change is often unsettling (something I’m sure those who worked with Florence Nightingale and Ludwig Guttmann experienced), it’s something that I have embraced and indeed befriended because I never want to be in the position of saying … I never thought it could happen to… me!
Director – Michael McGrath Management Services Ltd
Inspirational Business Speaker, Consultant, Disability Champion, Change Agent, Adventurer
The first disabled person in the world to have successfully led expeditions to both the North and South Poles
Founder, CEO – The Muscle Help Foundation
Registered Charity No 1096716
A specialist family charity delivering highly personalised experiences in the UK for children and young people with the muscle wasting disease muscular dystrophy (MD)