Helping people to get back to the things they love, that’s the vision for Wound Care Nurse, Stephanie Barker, who works at the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) specialist wound clinic at Deal Hospital. Stephanie said: “When people come here we look at the whole person, not the hole in the person.
“For most people, cuts and scratches heal within days or weeks. But for some people a simple sore can become a complex medical problem.
“Wounds which don’t heal can dramatically affect someone’s life. They can be painful, unsightly and they can smell. They can lead to people being unable to walk or move around, sleep, drive, go to work or even leave the house. In severe cases, they can even result in an emergency hospital admission.”
KCHFT has developed five specialist wound centres to give people quick and easy access to specialist nursing care for wounds which are harder to heal. The centres are all in east Kent; at Deal, Folkestone, Thanet, Herne Bay and Ashford. In west Kent, we are piloting specialist nurses working alongside GP practice nurses.
Terry Hodson, 78, who lives in Deal, is a former rugby player, manager and coach and has been using the Deal Wound Medicine Centre for the past seven years, after being referred by his GP to the community nurses and then to wound clinic.
He believes his leg and wound issues are as a result of many years of getting knocked around on the rugby pitch, as well as an accident while working, when he fell and severely damaged his knee, leading to him becoming less mobile.
During weekly and sometimes twice-weekly visits to the centre Terry’s pain levels and his general health and wellbeing are assessed. His infection is monitored, his legs are cleaned, moisturised and dressed and he’s given advice on what to do between visits.
He said: “I’ve got confidence in these nurses as they’re specialists. Going to the wound centre also gets me out and it’s someone to talk to. I see the same people each time, nurses and other patients and we get to know each other and always have a good laugh.”
74-year-old Roger Golding, from Dover, is a keen wildlife photographer and likes to get out in the countryside. However, his health means he has to walk with a stick in unfamiliar territory and he had to stop driving a year ago. He has been visiting the centre once a week for almost a year. Roger said: “I want to get my life back. All my hobbies went. When you live alone, every little thing is a big thing. I want to be more mobile again.
“It all started after I’d been for a walk and I noticed a spot on my heel. It got worse and bigger and soon covered most of my leg. After six weeks the other leg started doing the same thing.”
Roger was diagnosed with aneurysms in his legs, which can put people at risk of blood clots, as well as putting compression on nearby nerves. Roger also suffered a stroke in January 2022.
He said: “I like going to the wound centre to see the nurses there, as they specialise in the problems I have. They’re brilliant. On each visit things are better. One leg is nearly better and I hope I can get back to driving soon.”
Stephanie said:“The sooner a problem with a wound is addressed, the easier it is to treat. We do a holistic assessment which looks at many things, including a person’s diet, lifestyle, how much they move around, their blood flow and much more. This forms our investigation, to find out what is causing the issue and enables us to agree a care plan with the patient.
“We ask people to pinpoint the one thing which matters most to them and we work on that. One patient had stopped going to the barbers as someone there had commented on the smell. So, on his next visit to us, we put some lavender oil on his dressings.”
“The centres were developed because caring for wounds in people’s homes isn’t always best, for the patients or our colleagues. At our centres we have specialist nurses and the right equipment. For some people, visiting us might be the only time they get out and see someone during the week.
“We aim to improve healing by 40 per cent in the first six weeks and help people get access to other services they might need, such as podiatry or lymphoedema, as well as giving them advice so they understand their condition and know how they can look after themselves.”
Due to our expertise, KCHFT was chosen as a national pilot site in the National Wound Care Strategy Programme. As one of just six trusts taking part, this has included developing our WoundMatrix app, which we use to measure, monitor and record progress of a wound.
Lead Wound Clinic Nurse Sharon Moon, said: “It’s so satisfying to see a patient from the very beginning of their journey and to see their wound improving and getting better and helping people to move on with their life, getting back to the things they love doing.”
Sharon and her team have been using a quality improvement (QI) approach to making improvements at the wound centres. Knowledge and best practice is shared across the centres, with the specialist team teaching community nurses new skills and sharing latest information and advice. Sharon said: “Our aim is to give gold standard care and to improve healing rates. We aim for wounds to show healing in the first six weeks and help people get access to other services they might need, such as podiatry or lymphoedema, as well as giving them advice, support and knowledge, so they understand their condition and know how they can also look after themselves.”