Avoid sun damage – especially if you have planned surgery

The summer weather means many people have been spending more time outdoors. But a head nurse from Bristol is warning that too long in the sun could lead to surgery cancellations for some patients.

According to NHS England, between April and June last year when the sun was not as strong as this year, some 18,752 elective operations, such as cataract surgery and joint replacements, were cancelled in England.

Avoidable cancellations contribute to longer waiting times for treatment across the NHS and one of the most common reasons is the condition of a patient’s skin.

One of the many functions of the skin is to act as a barrier to infection. It keeps out the sort of bacteria which can enter the bloodstream and cause problems with a new hip, knee or other implant.

Head of Nursing at Emersons Green NHS Treatment Centre Michelle Parsons said: “This is why it is important to avoid cuts, grazes or even insect bites before your operation.

“When you go to hospital for your pre-operative assessment, our outpatient nurse will check your skin for any problems and it is important that you declare any skin conditions which might not otherwise be noticed.

“If there is a problem with your skin, you will be given advice and medication to deal with it before your operation. “

Michelle says it is very important that you call the Outpatient Department and ask to speak to a nurse if you damage your skin or you have a flare-up of a skin condition between your pre-operative assessment and the day of your treatment. The nurse will be able to discuss your concerns and decide if it is necessary for you to attend another assessment.

Having worked as a nurse in Australia, Michelle is also very aware of the potential damage to skin from by sun exposure. She said: “When I lived in there we promoted skincare with the phrase Slip, Slap, Slop – slip on a shirt, slap on a hat, slop on the sunscreen –  and I would advise anyone, not just those expecting to undergo surgery, to follow that advice in the hot weather.”

With medical services reporting higher than average insect bites across the country, particularly from horse flies, Michelle recommends those people scheduled for operations should take care to use a good insect repellent from their local pharmacy and wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts, especially when walking in or near long grass.