Wound dressings in the UK are changed on average every three days even though studies demonstrate that keeping wounds covered with a dressing for longer may be beneficial to promote optimal wound healing.

According to a new survey of over 300 healthcare professionals (HCP) including tissue viability nurses, district nurses, podiatrists and care home nurses, many felt challenged by lower quality dressings on their formularies.

Dressings that help to create an appropriate moist environment while absorbing excess exudate for more than three days can promote undisturbed and faster healing. However, nearly 90% of HCPs mentioned that high levels of exudate and wounds not healing well are key causes of dressing changes every three days.

A third (32%) highlighted that frequent changes are due to ineffective dressings on their formulary. One in five (18%) of HCPs from across the country recognise that their formulary’s dressings do not effectively handle exudate capacity and 14% say that the dressings on their formulary fall off too easily.

Patient compliance is a big issue for frequent dressing changes

The survey also found that nine out of ten HCPs consider patient compliance as a big issue for frequent dressing changes with nearly 50% reporting that their patient removes the dressing before it needs changing and 36% reporting that their patient complains the dressing is not comfortable.

Approximately two thirds (62%) of HCPs consider that encouragement of undisturbed wound healing is a strong reason for leaving up to seven days between dressing changes. The survey highlighted the importance of using superior quality dressings, with 65% of HCPs feeling confident of leaving a dressing untouched if it can stay in place for up to seven days and the majority (62%) noted high exudate handling capacity as the key feature to ensure they can leave seven days between changes.x

According to Luxmi Dhoonmoon, Tissue Viability Nurse Consultant at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, “There is pressure to use lower quality, cheaper dressings in the UK – but this ignores the bigger picture, for example a district nurse can cost up to £100 per visit and so the NHS ends up paying more in nursing time. When there is investment in superior products, a wound can heal in months rather than years, aside from saving money this also has a positive impact on a patient’s quality of life.”

The survey was conducted by Mölnlycke and published in the Journal of Community Nursing.