Commissioners and providers should involve patients and the public in decisions about the services provided for the millions of people with a skin disease, standards published this week emphasise.
Some 24% of the population visit their GP about a skin condition each year and skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United Kingdom – with a four-fold increase in malignant melanoma since the 1970s.
A coalition of skin care patient and professional groups led by the British Association of Dermatologists developed the new standards, which have been published by PCC.
The eight standards, each backed by evidence, recommendations and key performance indicators, provide both commissioners and providers with a framework for measuring their own services.
Dr Julia Schofield, consultant dermatologist at the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and a key member of the project team, highlighted the publication’s emphasis on user involvement and recognition that good skin care services do not just treat the actual skin condition but also its effects on the individual.
‘Millions of people find their lives affected by skin disease. While in many cases the key health care response will be clinical treatment of the condition, professionals and commissioners must recognise the wider psychological aspects that such conditions have.
‘The scars and sensitivities of skin disease are often not just physical but psychological. The impact can range from a parent exhausted by wet-wrapping a distressed baby with eczema to a teenager committing suicide after being bullied about acne.’
She added: ‘These standards are evidence-based and are the work of dermatologists, GP’s with a special interest, specialist nurses, pharmacists and – most importantly – patients. The challenge now is for commissioners and providers to listen to those groups and act in partnership with patients to improve services.’
Aiming to establish equitable access to high-quality care for people with skin conditions, the standards call for:
- Local commissioning stakeholder groups – including patient representatives
- Each dermatology service should have a patient panel and reliable methods of patient feedback
- Patients should have access to all appropriate treatments approved by national agencies such as NICE
- Patient care should be under-pinned by non-negotiable principles – including access to psychological support where necessary.
Quality standards for dermatology: providing the right care for people with skin conditions can be downloaded from the PCC website at http://www.pcc.nhs.uk/quality-standards-for-dermatology