Laura Harrington from the Medical Negligence and Serious Injury department looks at legal claims arising from pressure ulcers.
In 1859, Florence Nightingale wrote: “If he has a bedsore, it’s generally not the fault of the disease, but of the nursing”. Yet, 160 years later, this largely preventable condition is still a significant problem in care homes and hospitals. The ‘Stop The Pressure’ Campaign estimates that up to 200,000 people develop a new pressure ulcer every year and that treatment costs the NHS more than £1.4 million
What is a Pressure Ulcer
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. They usually affect people who are confined to bed, or who sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time. They are most common on bony parts of the body, such as the heels, elbows, hips and base of the spine.
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.
Can Pressure Ulcers be Prevented?
Many pressure ulcers can be prevented with proper assessment, management and nursing care.
NICE (the National Institute of Clinical Excellence) has issued guidance to healthcare professionals on the prevention of pressure ulcers, which can be viewed here
Common ways to prevent pressure sores include:
- Proper assessment and monitoring of pressure sores - healthcare professionals may use a scale to help assess the risk of a patient developing a pressure ulcer (for example, the Braden scale, the Waterlow score or the Norton risk-assessment scale).
- Regular re-positioning at least every 4 - 6 hours
- Using barrier creams to prevent skin damage
- Maintaining proper nutrition and hydration
- Using specialist pressure redistributing devices such as mattresses or cushions.
- Ensure incontinence needs are properly met to prevent sores
Pressure Ulcers have become such a huge issue in healthcare, both in terms of cost to the NHS and patient health, that several campaigns have been launched to raise awareness and aiming to prevent the condition:
- ‘Your Turn’ – www.your-turn.org.uk
– national movement working to reduce the number of pressure ulcers in the UK
- NHS ‘Stop the Pressure’ campaign http://nhs.stopthepressure.co.uk/
- NHS campaign to increase awareness of pressure ulcers
- The ‘React to red Skin’ – campaign to educate as many people as possible about pressure ulcers and the steps that can be taken to avoid them
Legal Claims for Pressure Ulcer Negligence
Whilst anyone can develop a pressure ulcer, it is a sad fact that many are sustained by those who are being cared for in a hospital or care home setting who may be vulnerable, elderly or recovering from illness or injury. One of the most shocking things about pressure ulcers is that many are entirely preventable. It is therefore appalling that so many people are suffering from the pain, distress and ongoing health problems caused by pressure ulcers as a result of neglect or poor care.
Healthcare providers and care homes have a duty to do everything they can to prevent pressure ulcers. If a pressure ulcer develops as a result of failing to follow guidance then you may be able to claim compensation for your pain and suffering. The amount of compensation will be dependent on the severity of the pressure ulcer and the amount of time it takes to heal along with any other financial losses incurred.
Burnetts have specialist medical negligence solicitors, who are accredited by The Law Society and AvMA, who can investigate your claim and help secure compensation.
We have access to specialist medical experts and barristers who can advise in your case and will aim to obtain compensation for you as quickly as possible. Where someone has sadly died, Burnetts also have expertise in dealing with Inquests and claims on behalf of the deceased’s estate. If the claim is on behalf of a protected party then our Court of Protection team will also be on hand to assist with the administration of compensation and navigating you through the whole process.
If you would like to speak to someone within our MNSI team to discuss whether you may have a clinical negligence claim then please contact our offices on 01228 552222.