The Lymphoedema Service based at Royal Derby Hospital has become one of only 11 centres in the world to achieve special recognition for the care provided to patients.
The service has been awarded the title of Comprehensive Centre of Excellence by the Lymphatic Education and Research Network (LE&RN) following an application which showed the service was excelling not only in patient care, but also in areas such as research, training and education.
Accreditation has been awarded to only two other centres in Europe, with the other eight centres all located in America, which Professor Vaughan Keeley, Consultant Physician in Lymphoedema at UHDB, believes is a real coup:
“This accreditation is decades in the making really, and it a tremendous thing for us, especially as there is only one other centre in the UK to achieve this. It really does feel like a huge honour and it’s a reflection of the work of the whole team.
“I set up the service here in 1990 and over the years, we’ve grown so much and have clinics at King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield and Long Eaton Health Centre for Nottinghamshire patients. We also support the clinic for Lincolnshire based in Skegness.
“Our three clinics form a specialist centre for complex lymphatic conditions seeing patients from across the Midlands and the North of England.”
The centre at UHDB is also one of only two UK members of the European Rare Diseases Network for children’s and primary lymphoedema, adding yet more benefits for patients.
Professor Keeley added: “To have what we have here, which is a consultant-led service for lymphatic diseases, is really quite rare. We don’t just treat lymphoedema patients, but lipoedema and other lymphatic diseases too, so we have a really wide remit here.”
Lymphoedema is a long-term (chronic) condition where the lymphatic system does not work properly, causing swelling in the body's tissues, usually in the arms and legs. It is thought to affect more than 200,000 people in the UK.
The condition affects wide variety of patients as it has two forms – primary and secondary. Primary lymphoedema is a rare, genetic form of the condition and is caused by problems in the development of the lymph vessels in the body.
Secondary lymphoedema is more common and is caused by damage to the lymphatic system, often as a result of having surgery for cancer, radiotherapy, obesity and infections among other causes.
Professor Keeley added: “Lymphoedema has massive effects on patients and the condition will always be there. We have to manage it effectively in order to make the patient’s life easier and reduce the risk of complications.”
Penny Owens, Director of AHPs at UHDB, is a lymphoedema patient who uses the service. Penny’s lymphoedema was diagnosed in 2003, a few years after she beat cancer and she revealed that her “heart sank” when she found out the news:
“I had terrible pain and throbbing in my legs, which I thought was deep vein thrombosis at first. But when I was told that it was lymphoedema, my heart sank because, as a radiographer, I knew what this meant for me.
“However, the care I’ve received has always been wonderful and the team taught me how to manage the condition and have saved me from so many issues due to their care.”
Penny added that she is delighted to see the service being recognised for the quality of care provided to patients: “It’s very reassuring for our patients to see the service recognised on an international scale. I have always thought it was good but you never know just how good until it receives accolades like this.
“It really puts the Trust and the service on the map and is another example of excellence in clinical practice at UHDB. This is a good recognition of the service we provide and we’re quite rightly very proud.”
Katie Riches, Lead Research Nurse in the lymphoedema team, said it was “a real boost” to find out the accreditation had been granted, and said the research into the condition is an incredibly important part of the Trust’s successes:
“Patients develop the condition for a lot of different reasons so our research is quite varied. We’ve done a lot of work with patients who have had breast cancer in particular, but also the neurology team to see how it affects patients with MS and also with the bariatric (weight loss) service to see how it affects obese patients.
“As a result, we have developed some quality of life tools to see how lymphoedema affects patients and learn from this, and these are tools which are used by healthcare professionals around the world.”
Please note - all pictures were taken prior to social distancing measures being introduced
1) The Lymphoedema Team at UHDB
2) (left to right) Professor Vaughan Keeley and Katie Riches