New Strategy To Improve Lymphoedema Services

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Welsh Assembly Government launches consultation on a new strategy to improve lymphoedema services across Wales.

A new consultation on plans to strengthen lymphoedema services in Wales was launched today by Health Minister Edwina Hart.

Lymphoedema is a chronic swelling due to lymphatic system failure. It can affect people of all ages and can occur in a limb, limbs, in the head and neck, trunk or genital area. Whilst not life threatening,lymphoedema affects individuals physically, psychologically and socially. It also has a significant impact on quality of life and the ability of individuals to undertake the activities of daily living.

Currently there is wide variation in the organisation and delivery of lymphoedema services in Wales. Whilst some trusts offer full lymphoedema services, some offer services that are accessible only accessible to cancer patients and some areas don't offer any services at all. As a result waiting times and treatment options vary considerably. The proposed strategy aims to improve health and well being, minimise the risks associated with lymphoedema, ensuring that patients can access the right services, while also supporting and empowering people to maximise their own independence in all areas of life.

Key recommendations of the strategy include:

* The appointment of a lymphoedema project manager to ensure equity of access to treatment,

* The appointment of an additional 10 lymphoedema practitioners and 14 lymphoedema assistants,

* The development of a lymphoedema prevention protocol for all lymphoedema services in Wales,

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* All patients suffering from lymphoedema will be referred to a specialist service,

* All services to offer a comprehensive treatment programme where daily intensive management is available if needed,

* All patients to be encouraged to self manage their condition.

* The development of a lymphoedema education programme for healthcare professionals.

The proposed strategy has been developed by the Welsh Association of Lymphoedema Specialists.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said: "The Welsh Assembly Government is committed to improving access to lymphoedema services across Wales."

"Lymphoedema is a distressing condition that severely impacts on the patient's ability to go about their day to day lives and this strategy would ensure that all patients have access to the best possible treatment."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Mike Harmer said: "Lymphoedema is well documented as being an extremely debilitating condition. Some people with mild lymphoedema can manage their condition on their own with little support from health care professionals. If their lymphoedema is controlled, then they may only need to be reviewed in a clinic once or twice a year for a check up and renewal of their compression garments. Other patients are less able to self manage, and need intensive management to reduce, maintain and control their swelling, needing significant input from a multidisciplinary team."

"The proposed strategy would ensure that all lymphoedema patients in Wales have access to the treatment that they need to manage their condition."

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