The health service costs of treating venous leg ulcers in the UK: evidence from a cross-sectional survey based in the north west of England

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Objectives: To estimate and examine the direct healthcare costs of treating people with open venous leg ulcers in the UK.
Design: Cost-of-illness study
Setting: A cross-sectional survey of nine NHS community locales over two-week periods in 2015/2016
Methods: We examined the resource use and prevalence of venous leg ulcer treatment in the community. Examination of variation in these obtained costs was performed by ordinary least squares regression. We used additional resource use information from a randomised control trial and extrapolated costs to the UK for an annual period.
Results: The average two-week per person cost of treating patients where a venous leg ulceration was the primary (most severe) wound was estimated at £166.39 (95% CI: £157.78 to £175.00) with community staff time making up over half of this amount. Costs were higher where anti-microbial dressings were used and where wound care was delivered in the home. Among all those with any recorded venous leg ulcer (primary and non-primary), we derived a point prevalence of 3.2 per 10,000 population and estimated that the annual prevalence could be no greater than 84.5 per 10,000 population. We estimated that the national cost of treating a venous leg ulcer was £102 million with a per person annual cost at £4787.70.
Conclusion: Our point prevalence figures are in line with the literature. However, our annual prevalence estimations and costs are far lower than those reported in recent literature which suggests that the costs of treating venous leg ulcers are lower than previously thought. Movement towards routinely collected and useable community care activity would help provide a transparent and deeper understanding of the scale and cost of wound care in the UK.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2022