WITH its large elderly population, Dorset has one of the highest incidences of leg ulcers in the UK – and yet, just 20 years ago, it didn’t have a specialist service to tackle the problem.

Today, thanks to the passion and commitment of NHS Specialist Nurse Val Reynolds, the picture is very different. Dorset HealthCare runs leg ulcer clinics across the county, with a current weekly caseload of more than 200 people.

And the service is marking its 20th anniversary next week with a special conference in Poole, with guest speakers including Joy Tickle, a Tissue Viability Nurse Specialist who has appeared on Channel 4’s ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ programme.

Leg ulcers have many causes, most commonly when patient has a history of varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis, as well as intravenous drug use. It is a chronic condition and can lead to life-changing complications.

Back in 1997, there was no specialist treatment service available in Dorset, but Val – then a District Nurse – was determined to change that.

“There was a dearth of guidance, training and support locally,” she recalled. “I wanted to improve care for patients within Dorset to be in line with rest of the UK. I developed a business plan and persuaded my manager to release me for half an afternoon a week to run a leg ulcer clinic from Shelley Road in Boscombe."

She also began teaching at Bournemouth University and established leg ulcer training across the county for nursing staff.

The team is now nearly 30-strong and offers specialist assessments as well as training.

Leg ulcers can affect everyone from people in their 20s through to old age. Andy, 45, from Bournemouth, developed the problem eight years ago. Following various complications, his condition worsened and he was told his left leg would need to be amputated.

“The pain was indescribable," he said. "I couldn’t even get out of bed and the flesh on my ankles was rotting away.”

However a year ago he began attending the Shelley Road clinic, and is now on the road to recovery.

Val, who manages the service, said Andy’s problems are not uncommon.

“Leg ulcers can have a massive impact on people’s lives," she explained. "People often avoid going out, which can result in them becoming withdrawn and depressed. Sadly, some patients have lost their jobs or seen it affect their marriages.”

For leg ulcer help, contact your GP or