Cellulitis is an infection of the deeper layers of the skin and the underlying tissue that can affect people of all ages. In 2012, there were 140 admissions of older people to Southwark and Lambeth hospitals which could be attributed to cellulitis – this equated to 1,713 bed days.    

In some cases of cellulitis the bacteria can trigger a secondary infection somewhere else in the body, which can be life threatening and require hospital admission to be treated. In older people, the presence of cellulitis can cause further complications therefore potentially leading to an admission or a longer stay in hospital. Furthermore, you can become more susceptible to further infections, if you have one incidence of cellulitis, so it is important to prevent recurring infections or catch the infection early with treatment.

This project has focused on designing patient guidance, which will help people with recurring cellulitis infections and their carers to better self-manage; and reduce unnecessary A&E visits and hospital admissions.

Patient Guidance

The aim of the guidance is to improve people’s knowledge of cellulitis symptoms and what to do if they suspect they have the infection. The guidance also identifies what to do to prevent cellulitis recurring. It is specifically aimed at people who are at risk of suffering from recurring bouts of cellulitis and will be given to them by healthcare professionals in the community.

The guidance has been tested extensively in the local community, including general practice and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust community services, with healthcare professionals distributing the guidance to people who have experienced recurring cellulitis. As a result of the feedback we received from patients and healthcare professionals, the guidance was amended to ensure the information was suitable for patients.

Overall, the feedback has been very positive; local people with experience of cellulitis have said they found ‘the guidance easy to understand’, ‘the information practical’ and ‘it would help identify infections’. Healthcare professionals have commented that ‘it is a really good source of information’, ‘very clear and patient-friendly’ and ‘as it is only one page long patients won’t get bored’.

At the Infections Working Group meeting in June 2015, it was agreed that the Cellulitis Patient Guidance will be rolled out across Southwark and Lambeth. This means the guidance will be available to all healthcare professionals in general practice and the community, to give to those people at risk of a recurring cellulitis infection. A roll out plan is currently being developed and the guidance will be in GP practices and community services in the near future.