The 6th International Skin and Infection Prevention Conference was titled ‘Innovations in Wound Management: Welcome to Tomorrow’s Reality’

THE University of Huddersfield has gained a considerable reputation as a centre for innovation and change in the field of wound infection and care and the multi-disciplinary nature of the subject was never more evident than at the latest conference on the subject held at the University this month.

The University’s Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention held its sixth annual conference, which was again sponsored by the leading industry magazine, the Journal of Wound Care.

The event was chaired by the University’s Head of Pharmacy Professor Barbara Conway and organised by the Institute’s Director Professor Karen Ousey.

Professor Ousey is a visiting professor at the Queensland University of Technology and at Dublin’s Royal College of Surgeons and the elected chair of the International Wound Care Infection Institute.

She has led on a number of sector-wide innovations, winning numerous awards, and is currently working with Huddersfield Podiatry and Clinical Sciences senior lecturer Grace Parfitt on reducing the use of dynamic mattress systems in vascular and stroke hospital wards, and in turn measuring the effects on patients’ skin integrity.

Treating pressure damage remains a huge expense for the health services and at the conference the pair presented an analysis of the Trezzo HS range of reactive foam systems, highlighting staff and patient feedback and cost savings that can be made where the equipment is used appropriately.

The Trezzo HS range is produced by Essential Healthcare Solutions and the company’s Clinical and Commercial Director, Debbie Murry, presented findings of a case-study of the Trezzo HS mattress which incorporates DURA-last Cover Technology.

Innovation in wound care

The advancements currently being made in the field were highlighted by the work that is currently being undertaken by experts at the University of Huddersfield and some of these innovators were invited to speak on the day.  These included leading healthcare Lecturer/Practitioner Dr Leanne Atkin; the Director of the newly-created Technical Textiles Research Centre, Professor Parik Goswami; and the Director of the Biopolymer Research Centre, Professor Alan Smith.

Though experts in differing fields, each offered a new perspective on the developments starting to take shape in tissue viability and clinical practice.

Dr Leanne Atkin

Wound Care Lecturer/Practitioner

In a recent research study, it was estimated that the annual cost of managing wound care and associated conditions in the NHS is over £5.3 billion, comparable to the £5bn spent by the service managing obesity. And in the average year, approximately 2.2 million adults will need treatment for a wound. Dr Leanne Atkin heads up the Lower Limb Stream of the National Wound Care Strategy, which was created to address the level of “below-standard” wound care across the NHS. The Strategy has instigated various initiatives towards service improvement and patient awareness and has already introduced a clinical navigation tool to provide a basis for the better treatment of wounds on the lower leg. Currently, for non-diabetic patients, wounds resulting from injury, surgery, ulcers or pressure sores can take as long as three months to receive the optimal treatment. To highlight this to the public, a national awareness campaign was introduced, the Legs Matter campaign, in an attempt to make patients, and healthcare practitioners, aware of what care should be taking place and where it’s failing. “Patients don’t realise that the care that they are receiving is poor, and that a nice bandage and a pleasant bedside manner is simply not enough,” said Dr Atkin, who is a Vascular Nurse Consultant at the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust. “We all know that people with diabetes are in danger of losing limbs through amputation, but currently, across Yorkshire, more non-diabetic patients are suffering below-the-knee, major-limb amputations, many of which may be preventable.”

Professor Parik Goswami

Textile Fibre and Fabric Functionalisation

Advancements in science was a major feature of the conference and delegates heard from Textiles expert Professor Parik Goswami on a number of on-going projects that will benefit the healthcare industry. A specialist in fibre and fabric functionalisation, Professor Goswami is currently leading on a range of initiatives that centre on fibre and polymer science and has published extensively on a range of healthcare innovations. A number of these relate specifically to wound care innovations and he has published a sequence of papers relating to cutting-edge work in both implantable materials and tissue engineering as well as investigations into non-implantable materials that could be applied to antibacterial wound dressings. A growing problem for hospitals is minimising the problems posed by Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI). According to data by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), over 300,000 patients annually are affected by healthcare-associated infections as a result of care within the NHS. Professor Goswami believes that textile science has a role to play in fighting HAI, particular around the manufacture of antibacterial wipes and cellulose science. In his research to date, he has also contributed to work on the science and technology of advanced materials and the treatments of textiles for water repellency.

Professor Alan Smith

Biopolymer Scientist

Customised wound dressings using 3D printing could be the answer for many patients, as Professor Alan Smith explained. The technology, he told his audience, now exists at the University of Huddersfield to create bespoke antimicrobial hydrogels specifically designed for individual patients, ready for use in hours. He feels that the NHS is ready for such an advancement and he outlined a simple procedure for its adoption. “A community nurse, for example,” he said, “could assess a wound using a hand-held scanner which would provide information on the scale and depth of the wound bed as well as highlight areas of infection. This data could then be transmitted to a central point, using an app, where a 3D-printed, individualised wound dressing could be prepared. Depending on the size, a dressing, including an antimicrobial substance, could be produced in just 15 minutes. Even more complicated dressings would only take 24 hours,” added the professor, who is an expert in biopolymer science. Professor Smith has also been working on tissue replacement using bio-3D printing equipment at the University. In the very near future, he is confident that his team will be able to construct full thickness skin. “This would include the three layers; hypodermis, dermis and epidermis,” he said, “and using our current technology, we could control and integrate the types of material we use, thus creating layered structures.”

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