Pressure Sore Negligence Claims

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29 June, 2021

Leonie Millard

Pressure sores are also known as 'bed sores'. The clue is in the name, as they are often associated with being less mobile, often in a care setting. The fact that a person has been hospitalised makes them vulnerable to immobility, and it goes without saying that the patient is poorly. This alone can make a patient more susceptible.

That said, the tendency is for them to be more likely to occur in some people than others. Those who are seriously ill, have a neurological condition, impaired mobility, nutrition deficiency, loss of sensation, poor posture or deformity, significant cognitive impairment, history of pressure ulcers, or rely on the use of equipment not designed for pressure relief, are at high risk.

Focus ought to be on preventing pressure ulcers. This is outlined in the Department of Health NHS outcomes framework 2014/15. This includes NHS care homes, primary and community care and emergency departments. Outlined, are methods for identification, risk assessment and prevention. The guide delivers consistency in defining and measuring pressure of sores.

Risk assessment is essential alongside clinical judgement in determining whether a person should be considered at high risk of developing a pressure ulcer. The Waterlow scale is one such tool for measuring risk. It considers factors including, build, weight, height, visual assessment of the skin, sex/age, continence, mobility, and appetite and special risk factors, divided into tissue malnutrition, neurological deficit, major surgery/trauma, and medication.

Healthcare professionals should be trained in preventing pressure ulcers and the best way to treat bed sores;

  • Identify pressure damage and what steps to take;
  • Carry out a risk assessment;
  • Reposition;
  • Be aware of pressure re-distributing devices;
  • Understand the outcome of risk and skin assessment;
  • Identify the need for additional pressure relief at specific at risk sites;
  • Consider a Patient's ability to reposition themselves;
  • Recognise the significance of existing ailments, all against the background of the patient's wishes;
  • Where a patient is assessed as high risk, he or she should be given an individualised care plan.

If untreated, pressure sores can be fatal, leading to sepsis (blood poisoning ), bone and joint infection, gangrene and cellulitis.

Such an example was reported by the BBC following the tragic death of an 80-year-old lady, Janet Prince, in January 2019. A double amputee suffered fatal pressure sores caused by 'gross and obvious failings' in her hospital treatment. The assistant coroner issued a prevention of future deaths report to Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. In this sad case the patient was left on a trolley for 9 hours. Requests for a specialist mattress were ignored. Consequently, the patient suffered grade 4 pressure sores including a wound with exposed bone. There was criticism of a lack of a clear treatment plan, and despite the involvement of a number of specialists it was observed that she was passed from 'pillar to post'.

What this case highlights is the need for prompt prevention measures, clear risk assessment and a pressure sore treatment plan. A holistic approach is crucial to a positive outcome.

Bed sores can be extremely painful requiring a significant amount of treatment and a prolonged recovery. Failure to assess, monitor and reposition causing sores to develop would generally be considered negligent and below the standard expected of a hospital or care home.

If you, a friend or a loved one develops pressure sores, you may be able to make a pressure sore negligence claim. Here at Forbes Solicitors, we act on a no win no fee basis and can assist you with pressure sore claims for the pain and suffering caused. Contact our pressure sore claims team today on 0800 037 4625 or alternatively complete our online enquiry form.

For more information contact Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here

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