Together with Spinal Injuries Association, we are supporting the NHS STOP Pressure Ulcer Day to raise awareness of pressure ulcers. The aim of the campaign is to improve standards of care to reduce the number of people who suffer this debilitating and painful problem, which is of critical importance to people who have spinal cord injuries. A recent meta-analysis of 24 studies from across the globe confirmed that one in three patients with spinal cord injury had suffered pressure ulcers. Given that the vast majority of pressure ulcers are preventable, this is a shocking indictment on the care that individuals with spinal injury receive and steps must be taken to ensure that the various interventions that reduce risk of pressure injury are at the forefront of care plans for individuals with spinal injury.
A pressure ulcer (also known as a pressure sore or bedsore) is damage to the skin and underlying tissue caused by prolonged pressure on the skin. Pressure Ulcers are graded in 4 categories:
Stage 1 - part of the skin becomes discoloured
Stage 2 – develops into an open wound or blister
Stage 3 - a deep wound that reaches the deeper layers of the skin
Stage 4 - a very deep wound that may reach the muscle and bone
Pressure Ulcers can be extremely painful and may result in infection, amputation and sometimes death.
The reasons that people who have suffered spinal injury are at particular risk of pressure injuries to the skin include:
- Lack of a sense of discomfort when sitting in the same position for too long;
- Reduced mobility which can impede effective blood circulation;
- Reduced muscle mass.
Allowing an individual to develop a pressure sore in a healthcare setting is quite likely to be negligent. In figures released by NHS Resolution in the 10 years from 2010, they were notified of 3,148 pressure sore claims. During this time only 478 claims were discontinued without payment of damages. This has a massive impact on the NHS with the total costs of claims concluded in this 10 year period being almost £148million.
When caring for patients with spinal injuries, there are a number of tools health and care professionals can use to assess the risk of pressure damage such as the Braden scale, the Waterlow score or the Norton risk-assessment scale. Where there is an identifiable risk of pressure damage, steps can be put in place to reduce the risk by a combination of a number of factors such as routine pressure relief by either repositioning or movement; pressure relieving mattresses and cushions; offloading devices; barrier creams and continence aids to protect against moisture and soiling; and improved nutrition and hydration.
NICE (the National Institute of Clinical Excellence) has issued guidance to healthcare professionals on the prevention of pressure ulcers, which is available here.
At Burnetts, our lawyers all have experience of assisting client’s who have been unfortunate enough to suffer a pressure ulcer whilst under the care of a hospital or carers. We have specialist medical negligence solicitors, who are accredited by The Law Society and AvMA, who can investigate claims and help secure compensation. Our solicitors have access to specialist medical and nursing experts and barristers who assist in cases and will aim to obtain compensation for clients as quickly as possible.
Our Medical Negligence and Serious Injury (MNSI) team is renowned for the exceptional support it gives to clients with spinal injuries as well as its specialist knowledge in this legal field and we are very proud to continue to be a Business Member of the Spinal Injury Association (SIA).
If you would like to speak to someone within our MNSI team, call us on 0191 300 1833 or email firstname.lastname@example.org