Supporting patients and raising staff awareness of lymphoedema

27 July 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 14


Rachel Mayall, Lead Lymphoedema Practitioner, Rochdale Care Organisation, Northern Care Alliance (, winner of a Bronze Award in the Chronic Oedema Nurse of the Year category of the BJN Awards 2023

Lymphoedema may be primary, because of a genetic abnormality, or secondary, which can develop in people who previously had a normal lymphatic system that has become damaged. Common causes of damage leading to lymphoedema are injury, obesity, reduced or lack of mobility, venous disease, or treatments such as radiotherapy and/or surgery. The condition can also have a negative psychosocial impact on affected individuals.

The Rochdale Care Organisation had identified that there was gap in service provision for non-cancer-related lymphoedema. Within the Rochdale area a small cancer lymphoedema service that ran one day a week from the local hospice was the only lymphoedema management service in the area. This is commonplace – lymphoedema services are unevenly distributed around the UK and are under-resourced, with some areas having no service provision at all. Access to good lymphoedema care is a lottery for patients.

In 2017, I had been working as a tissue viability nurse for several years in another trust. I shared an office with a lymphoedema team and found that the subject piqued my interest. When a lymphoedema post came up in another area, I knew that I had to apply. This was a complete change in my nursing career. I enjoy a challenge and I absolutely love learning, so this was the ideal post for me. The new post was a lone lymphoedema practitioner role in a community care organisation with no previous lymphoedema service to inherit.

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