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Silver dressing spend questioned

The NHS's decision to use silver wound dressings despite doubts over their effectiveness is costing the service millions of pounds every year, experts have claimed.

An editorial in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin said the amount spent on the dressings had increased from £23m in 2005 to £25m in 2006/7 - a quarter of the total sum spent on all dressings that year.

While silver is known to have antimicrobial properties and is used in many types of dressings for wounds, ulcers and burns, the authors said evidence proving the beneficial effects of the item was scant, with the high cost "difficult to justify".

"Silver dressings are expensive and there have been few high-quality clinical trials to establish whether they have advantages over other, cheaper alternatives," they said.

Small-scale trials on effectiveness have so far failed to assess how well the dressings work over a long period, such as the 12 or more weeks it takes an ulcer to heal.

Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"l have changed my practice since reading the article from the National Prescribing Centre. The article encouraged me to think a bit more about what wound care l was providing" - Gillian Heenan

"They worked on me. Removal of 4 sq inches of skin after a fall led to an infection which persisted until a silver dressing was applied when the wound healed in 2/3 days" - Alan Wilson, Hants, UK