CARE in private nursing homes is to be reviewed to find why so many of their patients are developing potentially deadly pressure sores.
The inquiry has been ordered by North Staffordshire’s NHS, which spends tens of millions of pounds a year on funding beds for people.
It will include a sample of scores of homes in the area, ranging from ‘top-end’ to small and middle-sector homes.
Investigators will also look at centres where more than one bedsore has occurred over the past few months.
The alarm was raised by new figures showing 31 patients had developed the most severe and deepest type of pressure ulcers during February and March.
That compares to just 19 recorded over the same period by the NHS trust running community longer-stay hospitals and care in people’s homes throughout Staffordshire.
The review was set up the area’s two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
Although they can penalise NHS providers, they don’t have the same powers to fine private home for allowing patients to fall victim to ulcers.
Sally Parkin, clinical director of North Staffordshire CCG, said: “To have 31 patients suffering ulcers is not acceptable. We need to ensure we have the same level of protection for our patients with both private and NHS providers.
“We recognise we need to ensure when we commission beds in these homes they are safe and of high quality.”
The ulcers found were classed as grade three and four, where the skin is so severely damaged that surrounding tissue begins to die.
The condition – which can cause limb amputations and even killer blood clots – strikes as patients are left in the same position in beds or chairs for long periods.
Within the NHS they are classed as ‘serious incidents’ and hospitals have spent huge sums on systems, equipment and training to try and eliminate them in the past few years.
Numbers at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire have been slashed by nearly three-quarters in a single year, with officials putting the improvement down to stopping using of temporary agency nurses.
Jan Warren, CCG board member for nursing, said: “We spend a lot of money contracting to use beds in nursing homes and people have the same right to expect the same quality of care they get from the NHS.
“This does not just mean pressure ulcers, but also avoiding infections and medication errors .
“We need assurance that nursing homes learn lessons from these incidents.”
Health campaigner Ian Syme said: “This review is welcome as pressure ulcers are indicative of poor care. But the cost of it should be borne by the homes themselves, rather than the NHS.”
North Staffordshire NHS spends at least £20 million a year commissioning hundreds of beds in the centres.
The inquiry will be led by tissue viability nurses, with results sent to all homes.
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