The (dis)organisation of leg ulcer care in the UK: a realist synthesis

Fania Pagnamenta*, Monique Lhussier, Tim Rapley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Venous leg ulcers affect 1.5% of the UK adult population. Leg ulcers are painful, can be malodourous and are associated with poor quality of life. Leg ulcers are predominantly cared for by nurses in the community. Frequently, patients receive suboptimal treatment through unwanted variations in care and simple ulcers deteriorate to become hard-to-heal wounds. It is important to understand the current UK system of care and how nurses and patients navigate through it.

Aim: The aim of this paper was to understand how, when, for whom and in what context leg ulcers are cared for in the UK and specifically, the current system of care, the nurses’ role and the patients’ experience in this system of care.

Design: A realist synthesis of the literature was undertaken, reported following the RAMESES publication standards: Realist syntheses.

Data sources: An iterative literature search was conducted across three recognised health collections from January 2010 to January 2022 that included descriptive studies as well as primary research.

Results: 73 papers were included.

Conclusion: In the absence of UK national guidance that recommends how leg ulcer care is organised and delivered, care is commissioned locally, with variable outcomes. Patients with venous leg ulcers would like to be looked after by knowledgeable, skilled, and confident nurses, in well-equipped and staffed clinics; nurses who have the ability to make clinical judgements to alter their treatment when necessary and are empowered to refer to specialist centres when further support is required.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Apr 2024

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