A Merseyside trust has significantly reduced its costs for treating complex wounds by developing a new discharge pathway with local primary care trusts.

Latest data shows stays at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals Trust fell by 21 per cent – from 2,460 days in 2007 to 2,028 in 2008 – after the introduction of a community-based wound care programme using vacuum assisted closure therapy.

Latest predictions suggest £37,724 savings will be made in 2009-10 as a direct result of earlier discharges.  

Vacuum assisted closure therapy, which speeds up healing by creating a vacuum around the wound to help draw its edges together, was recommended in the Transforming Services for Acute Care Closer to Home report, published last year as part of the NHS next stage review.

The St Helen’s service is based around a care pathway linking the trust with its primary care trusts, meaning that specially trained district nurses can take over the management of treatment that would normally require hospital care.

Presenting findings on the programme at the Wounds UK annual conference in Harrogate this month, the trust’s lead tissue viability nurse Debbie Gleeson said: “This joined up approach has resulted in a reduction in spend on therapy, more patients treated faster and improved quality of life for discharged patients in line with the themes of the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention programme.”

Heart of Birmingham Teaching PCT deputy chief executive David Melbourne added: “This is a concrete example of how we can use innovations to increase NHS productivity. The win for the PCT is that wounds are healed quicker giving us savings in district nurse time.”