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Air mattresses only ‘marginally better’ at preventing pressure sores than foam mattresses, finds study

For every 50 patients allocated high-tech air mattresses, only one would benefit from it.

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High-tech alternating-pressure mattress cost around five times more than their specialist foam counterparts.

Expensive air mattresses are only ‘marginally better’ at preventing pressure area damage than cheaper foam mattresses, says a new study led by nurse researchers.

Known as an alternating-pressure mattress, the high-tech devices contain air pockets that inflate and deflate to constantly change pressure points on the skin and cost at least £1,000 each.

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In comparison, a specialist foam mattress is around £200 and is made up of high-quality polyurethane and viscoelastic foam designed to cradle the patient to reduce pressure on the skin.

Due to a lack of independent research on the benefits of air mattresses, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has previouly called for clinical trials to investigate.

Only 1 in 50 would benefit.

The study, published in the journal EClinicalMedicine, concluded that for every 50 patients allocated to one of the high-tech air mattresses, only one would benefit from it.

The results showed that 6.9% of patients on the high-tech air mattresses developed a pressure sore that was grade two (ie blister or break in the skin) or worse compared with 8.9% on the specialist foam mattress.  Ulcers are graded on a scale from one to four, with four being the most serious.

The median length of time it took for the ulcers to develop for the patients on a high-tech air mattress was 18 days compared to 12 days for those on the specialist foam mattress.

Researchers also highlighted the issue that many patients dislike air mattresses, finding them “unsettling”.

This is the first large-scale study world-wide into the effectiveness of high-tech air and specialised foam mattresses to prevent pressure sores and involved more than 2000 patients at high risk of developing pressure sores.

No evaluation of their effectiveness.

Jane Nixon, lead for the study and Professor of Tissue Viability and Clinical Trials at the University of Leeds, said; “The professional guidelines tell healthcare staff that they should use specialist foam for all at-risk patients and high-tech air- mattresses for patients with an existing pressure ulcer when adequate pressure distribution cannot be achieved.

“But in practice, some nurses provide high-risk patients as well as those with existing pressure ulcers with the high-tech air mattresses and there has not been any evaluation of the effectiveness of one type of mattress over another.

“Some patients find the air mattress unsettling. They are kept awake by the noise of the pump, feel unsafe because the mattress is moving, or just find them uncomfortable.

“Rehabilitating patients also complain that they can’t move around themselves or get in and out of bed — and that exacerbates already limited mobility.”

Acute Medicine

Hospital visitors and volunteers help to reduce nursing workloads, survey finds

Nurses believe a lack of visitors is often detrimental to a patients’ health and speed of recovery.

Chloe Dawson

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Two in five hospital patients get no visitors and require additional support from the nursing team.

Nurses working in acute hospitals feel that patients without visitors require additional support from the nursing team, according to a survey by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS).

The survey also revealed that nurses believe a lack of visitors is often detrimental to a patients’ health and speed of recovery in a number of ways. These include; they are less likely to be mobile (43%), less likely to be stimulated through conversation (56%) and less likely to follow medical advice.

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It is also estimated that around 37% are more likely to have a longer stay in hospital.

The RVS states that volunteers can step in and play a “vital role” in helping to reduce the nursing workload and freeing up staff for clinical care.

Over half of the NHS nurses questioned said a volunteer presence on ward was very important and that volunteers could help with patient care in a variety of ways. In particular, they referenced; providing non-medical support and assisting at mealtimes.

Double the number of volunteers in the next ten years.

Previous research published in a Kings Fund report also found strong support for volunteering among frontline staff.

With approximately 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies throughout the NHS in England, volunteers are becoming more important to ensure patient receive care in a timely manner.

Following the NHS Long Term plan asking hospitals to double their volunteers in the next ten years and the recognition of the help they can provide by the NHS nursing team, RVS is calling on more hospitals to make the most of volunteers to improve patient health.

Sam Ward, Director of Commissioned Services for the RVS, said; “With results showing two-fifths of patients may not see a visitor during their hospital stay, it is clear that more is needed to be done to support them.

“Volunteers offer a professional support service, encouraging mental stimulation, physical activity, and more that can play a significant role in both mental and physical recovery.

“It is vital that hospitals work together with volunteer service providers to make sure that patients across the country are able to access this support.”

 

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Acute Medicine

‘Harmful’ prescription charges for asthma medication should be scrapped, warn nurses

The majority of nurses want ‘harmful’ prescription charges for people with asthma to be scrapped.

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Patients are at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks simply because they can’t afford their medication.

Hundreds of nurses called for ‘harmful’ prescription costs for people with asthma to be scrapped after seeing patients have an asthma attack or need emergency treatment because of the high cost of prescriptions.

A report published today by Asthma UK in collaboration with The Royal College of Nursing and Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists, includes findings from a survey of more than 600 nurses in the UK as well as 150 other healthcare professionals including doctors, pharmacists, and paramedics.

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The research highlights the harmful impact prescription charges are having on people with asthma, putting them at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks because they can’t afford their medication.

Nurses reported patients borrowing inhalers from their friends, relatives or even their own children because they couldn’t afford to buy their own – putting them at risk of taking the wrong medication, or the wrong dose.

‘An outdated and unfair policy’.

One healthcare professional told Asthma UK that she had found the money herself to pay for her patient’s prescription because she was worried about them being unable to afford their life-saving medication.

A majority of nurses surveyed (92%) want ‘harmful’ prescription charges for people with asthma to be scrapped.

Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK and a qualified nurse, said:“It’s really worrying that nurses who are working so hard to help their patients stay well are seeing people with asthma suffer because of an outdated and unfair policy. It is high time the Government took action and urgently reviewed asthma prescription charges so that people with asthma aren’t put at risk of avoidable but potentially life-threatening asthma attacks. No one should have to pay to breathe.”

‘Only making their condition worse’.

Wendy Preston, Head of Nursing Practice at the Royal College of Nursing said: “It cannot be acceptable that some people with long-term conditions are missing out on their vital medication because they cannot afford it.

“Nurses see the impact of this every day of the week and know what happens when people do not take their vital medication.

“This will only make their condition worse and they will end up needing further treatment adding additional pressure the health and care system.

“It is time that there is equity with other long-term conditions such as diabetes where prescription charges are exempt.”

Asthma UK is urging people with asthma, nurses and other healthcare professionals to join its Stop Unfair Asthma Prescription Charges campaign and sign its petition to end prescription charges.

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