Health economic burden that different wound types impose on the UK's National Health Service

Int Wound J. 2017 Apr;14(2):322-330. doi: 10.1111/iwj.12603. Epub 2016 May 26.


The aim of this study was to estimate the patterns of care and annual levels of health care resource use attributable to the management of different wound types by the UK's National Health Service (NHS) in 2012/2013 and the annual costs incurred by the NHS in managing them. This was a retrospective cohort analysis of the records of 2000 patients in The Health Improvement Network (THIN) Database. Patients' characteristics, wound-related health outcomes and all health care resource use were quantified, and the total NHS cost of patient management was estimated at 2013/2014 prices. The NHS managed an estimated 2·2 million patients with a wound during 2012/2013. Patients were predominantly managed in the community by general practitioners (GPs) and nurses. The annual NHS cost varied between £1·94 billion for managing 731 000 leg ulcers and £89·6 million for managing 87 000 burns, and associated comorbidities. Sixty-one percent of all wounds were shown to heal in an average year. Resource use associated with managing the unhealed wounds was substantially greater than that of managing the healed wounds (e.g. 20% more practice nurse visits, 104% more community nurse visits). Consequently, the annual cost of managing wounds that healed in the study period was estimated to be £2·1 billion compared with £3·2 billion for the 39% of wounds that did not heal within the study year. Within the study period, the cost per healed wound ranged from £698 to £3998 per patient and that of an unhealed wound ranged from £1719 to £5976 per patient. Hence, the patient care cost of an unhealed wound was a mean 135% more than that of a healed wound. Real-world evidence highlights the substantial burden that wounds impose on the NHS in an average year. Clinical and economic benefits to both patients and the NHS could accrue from strategies that focus on (a) wound prevention, (b) accurate diagnosis and (c) improving wound-healing rates.

Keywords: Burden; Cost; UK; Ulcers; Wounds.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • State Medicine / economics*
  • United Kingdom
  • Wound Healing / physiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / economics*
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*