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Your guide to pressure ulcers and bed sores

Patient in a hospital bed being assisted by a worker - pressure ulcers and bed sores

Pressure ulcers - also known as pressure sores and bed sores -  are  a growing problem and a more widespread type of clinical negligence than you might think. With proper nursing care pressures sore should be avoided, instead we have seen the number of vulnerable patients who suffer increase. It has been estimated that a 50 per cent increase in fatalities over a ten year period has led to 27,000 patients annually losing their lives to the lack of proper nursing care in preventing pressure ulcers from forming.

Established nursing procedure...

All patients should be risk assessed when they are admitted to hospital or uner the care of a nurse in the community. The failure to determine the chances of a patient developing a pressure ulcer, providing the appropriate mattress/bedding or proper care nursing can cause significant injury such as amputation or or even be fatal.

If you feel that you or a family member has not received an acceptable standard of care, which has led to the development of pressure sores we can help you find out if you have a case in negligence.

Our specialist clinical negligence team at Your Legal Friend has successfully resolved many different and complex, medical negligence cases. We are determined to help you get the answers that you need to establish who was responsible and why the system has failed you and what went wrong.

We can help you find out:

  • If you have been let down and not been given the proper care you had the right to reasonably expect
  • How you can your complaint and be heard, and
  • You are entitled to financial  compensation for the fact that the pressure sore developed or got significantly worse

Your chances of suffering a pressure sore...

  • An estimated half a million people in the UK will develop at least one pressure ulcer each year. (NHS UK)
  • More than 186,600 patients develop a pressure ulcer in hospital each year (NHS England, 2014)
  • Around 1 in 20 people who are admitted to hospital with an underlying health condition or sudden illness will develop a pressure ulcer. (NHS UK)
  • Patients over 70 years old are particularly vulnerable to pressure ulcers, as they are more likely to have mobility problems and ageing skin. (NHS UK)

It is further estimated that as many as one in five of nursing home patients suffer from pressure sores, although no official figures are currently available.

What are the causes of pressure ulcers?

Pressure ulcers are the result of being confined to one position whether in a bed or a chair for long periods of time. Restriction to blood flow results in one or more areas of skin breaking down and  lesions or wounds start to form around prominent bony areas, such as the hips, lower back and elbows. Further injury can the arise from the moisture in the underlying tissues, leading to open wounds and infection.

If left untreated, bed sores will quickly progress in severity according to a standard grading system.

The least severe starts at:

Grade 1 - presenting  patches of discoloured skin.

to the most severe:

Grade 4 - where open wounds expose the underlying bone or muscle.
While some less severe bed sores will heal over time, an advanced-stage pressure ulcer that has penetrated to the bone is unlikely to properly heal and will have severe implications for the patient’s future mobility and quality of life.

Preventing pressure ulcers

Hospital staff and nurses have a responsibility and owe you a ‘duty of care’ to prevent pressure sores from developing.

There are a number of factors that may increase your risk of developing a pressure ulcer, which are categorised as:
Outside of the body - and can be influenced, or
Inside the body - and often cannot be influenced.

Risk assessment ...

If as a patient, you are likely to be more vulnerable to developing bed sores, a formal assessment, known as the Waterlow Scale will help to identify  and estimate your risk, which should be carried out when you are admitted to hospital so that proper nursing care can be planned.

The Waterlow scale

As an established practice, all patients admitted into hospital should be assessed using the Waterlow system.

Areas assessed for each patient and given a point value include:

  • Build/weight for height
  • Skin type/visual risk areas
  • Sex and age
  • Malnutrition Screening Tool
  • Continence
  • Mobility

Patients in special risk categories are assessed for additional point values, as follows:

  • Tissue malnutrition
  • Nerve deficiency
  • Major surgery or trauma

Have you claim for negligence to prevent pressure ulcers?

To succeed in a clinical negligence claim it will be necessary to prove that:

  • The pressure ulcer was preventable, and that
  • Reasonable care was not provided to you

While all patient risk factors are assessed on an individual basis, the formation of pressure ulcers may often be traced to:

  • A failure to provide an adequate risk assessment
  • Negligent nursing care , including:

- a lack of adequate and frequent patient monitoring
- a failure to frequently turn patient in the bed

- incorrectly applied bandaging or plaster

• An inappropriate bed / quality mattress / armchair

How Your Legal Friend can help you..

As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we know that you will want to find out why you have suffered and injury and who is responsible.

We will ensure that your case is properly investigated to bring the hospital, health trust or a medical practitioner to account for the harm and suffering caused.

Your Legal Friend  is committed to ensuring victims of clinical negligence obtain the answers they need, which could prevent a further failure in care standards affecting other patients and their families. We recognise that you should be compensated for injuries that you have suffered as a result of poor care and we will fight to ensure that you receive this.