Last updated 31/10/2016

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Pressure injuries (also known as pressure ulcers) are a major cause of preventable harm for patients using health care services (including hospital, aged residential care and home care).

These injuries usually develop over ‘bony’ parts of the body due to sustained pressure, or pressure combined with shear and/or friction.

Pressure injuries cause physical symptoms, feelings of anger and blame, and reduce quality of life through pain, infection, delayed healing, altered body image, depression, and increased mortality and morbidity. The human toll on patients, carers and their families/whānau should not be underestimated.

These injuries also carry connotations of neglect and mismanagement on the part of health professionals.

Pressure injuries impact the New Zealand health system by increasing patients’ length of stay, ACC treatment injury claims and care costs.

With the right knowledge and care, most pressure injuries can be avoided. All health professionals, family/whānau members and patients have important roles to play in prevention.

An emerging priority for a national programme to prevent pressure injuries?

In late 2014, the Health Quality & Safety Commission, ACC and the Ministry of Health engaged KPMG to investigate the economic and social harm caused by pressure injuries, and advise us on the likely benefits of a national prevention programme. The report is now available on the Commission website and has been used to inform a joint agency approach to pressure injury prevention for 2016–17 and beyond.

Joint agency approach

The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), the Health Quality & Safety Commission, and the Ministry of Health are working together and with the sector to reduce pressure injuries in New Zealand.

ACC is leading the development of guidance, resources and tools for the sector on the prevention, assessment and treatment of pressure injuries. In the 2016–17 financial year they are developing principles to inform the sector’s pressure injury prevention activities. The second half of the year will be focused on the development of a pressure injury prevention toolkit (or similar), which will be a repository of resources and tools that the sector can use to prevent, assess and treat pressure injuries.

The Ministry is providing clinical oversight and support for engagement with clinical leaders. An ongoing focus is developing a culture and infrastructure that supports pressure injury prevention, promoting a multidisciplinary approach and improving collaboration between sectors. In 2016–17 the Ministry, through HealthCert, will focus on pressure injury management in aged residential care.

In 2016–17 the Commission is leading two pieces of work:

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