Pressure Sore Compensation Claims
Pressure sores, also known as bed sores or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and tissue. They are caused by prolonged pressure on the skin, and usually affect those who have spent long periods of time in bed, in a chair or wheelchair. Bed sores are most common amongst hospital patients, although they can happen to anyone and anywhere.
When medical or care staff neglect to take the necessary precautions, pressure sores can develop and the person may be able to claim for medical negligence.
How serious can pressure sores be?
When hospital or care home staff fail to take measures to avoid pressure sores and a patient develops the condition, it can be incredibly painful and can lead to serious complications.
Bed sores can be especially painful and debilitating in the elderly or vulnerable, and complications can include:
- Septicaemia (blood poisoning)
- Bone or joint infection
How are bed sores diagnosed?
Signs of pressure sores are obvious, and often present as reddened areas of skin which are tender to the touch. If a pressure ulcer worsens, it can form an open wound or blister and even a deep wound which reaches the muscle or bone. Bed sores often affect the heels, shoulders and the bottom of the spine (the areas under most pressure from lying/sitting down) and a patient will feel pain.
For hospital patients, medical staff are obliged to do initial checks on admission for all patients and should note down any areas of skin breakdown or damage. An initial risk assessment is also carried out to reflect the risk of pressure sores throughout an inpatient’s stay. For some patients, this will mean that pressure relieving mattresses or additional skin checks are made to ensure pressure sores do not happen. For patients that have trouble mobilising or are unable to turn themselves in bed, nurses will routinely carry out multiple assessments per day on the areas of skin that can be most affected by pressure sores. The medical records should reflect these checks.
In care homes, staff should consult a GP as soon as possible if they suspect a resident is presenting with sores. Similarly, however, they should also be performing regular monitoring of areas where pressure sores are most likely on all residents who they have assessed to be at risk of skin breakdown.
A doctor will examine the area and sometimes take blood tests. If a GP or doctor diagnoses pressure sores, they will determine the treatment based on how far the ulcers have progressed and the person’s general health.
The first step in preventing pressure sores is to adjust the body’s position; either moving the patient in the bed/chair or changing the type of mattress, pillow or cushion. If the skin is noted to be red and is an early pressure sore, cream is applied and this area of skin should be regularly checked for further breakdown. If the skin starts to breakdown, the wounds will need to be cleaned and dressings applied. If the pressure sore is severe, surgery is often required to remove damaged tissue and close the wound. In some cases, plastic surgery is required to place a skin graft over the affected area.
Once an individual has suffered a pressure sore, even if it is healed in full, they are at higher risk of suffering a further sore in the same area. Therefore, when they are a hospital patient or a care home resident, additional checks are required to maintain the skins integrity in that area.
How can pressure sores be prevented?
Pressure sores can be avoided by hospital and care professionals regularly changing a patient’s position or ensuring the person has an appropriate bed or wheelchair. There are many pressure-relieving mattresses or cushions for wheelchairs that help assist in the prevention of pressure sores.
Simple measures such as adjusting a person’s position throughout the day can make all the difference in preventing pressure sores. This can include moving from a bed to a chair and back again.
Can I claim compensation for pressure sores?
Pressure sores are preventable with the right care and health advice in a hospital or care home setting. When they do happen, medical professionals should diagnose and treat them appropriately, and fast. When pressure ulcers are not noticed and/or treated correctly, this is a sign of neglect, meaning you can claim for medical negligence.
Claims for pressure sore negligence include:
- Failure to assess that a patient is at risk of pressure sores when they are first admitted
- Failure to carry out a proper assessment of the patient when they have presented with symptoms of bed sores and put measures in place to prevent further deterioration or skin breakdown
- Failure of care or hospital staff in moving a patient regularly
- Not providing the appropriate type of bed/mattress/pillow/cushion
- Hospital or care staff failing to check bed or chair-bound patients on a regular basis
For all of the above, the person who is affected must have had a deterioration in their condition or suffered a pressure sore due to the failures in their medical care.
Painful and long-term complications can happen when pressure sores are neglected. They can affect anyone of any age, and our solicitors have advised many families on claiming for pressure sore negligence.
Get in touch with our pressure sore claims solicitors
If you or a loved one have suffered from pressure sores and they were not diagnosed or treated properly, our medical negligence lawyers can advise you on whether you are eligible to claim compensation.
Our lawyers work with individuals across England and Wales from our offices surrounding Bristol and South Gloucestershire, in Bedminster, Bishopston, Bristol city centre, Kingswood and Thornbury. We also offer a no-obligation initial meeting.