Pressure sores compensation claims


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Pressure sores – also known as bed sores – affect an estimated 500,000 people every year, often during hospital visits or when recovering from injury or illness.

In a lot of pressure sore cases, illness or underlying health conditions mean it is difficult for the patient and/ore requires them to spend a lot of time in bed. According to data from the NHS, approximately 5% of all people admitted to hospital will get a pressure or bed sore.

Hospitals and other care providers (e.g. care homes) have a duty of care to make sure they do everything in their power to prevent the development of pressure sores in individuals that they care for, if you believe you have developed pressure sores due to the negligence of a medical professional or institution then you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

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What are pressure sores?

Also referred to as ‘bed sores’ or ‘pressure ulcers’, pressure sores occur when a person is immobile for a certain period of time and are caused by pressure being applied to the same part of the body for an extended period.

This leads to damage being caused to the skin where the pressure is at its greatest, with pressure sores commonly forming where the bones are close to the skin e.g. ankles, back, hips, heels and elbows. Those most at risk of bed sores are patients who are bedridden or who use a wheelchair.

Although pressure sores can be quick to develop, they can often take a long time to heal and can be extremely debilitating and painful. If left unnoticed and untreated, pressure sores can even be fatal. With the correct nursing care, though, they can be prevented quite easily.

As well as forming from the pressure on the skin caused by being immobile, there are also forms of pressure sores that result from plaster casts that are applied by medical professionals. In these cases, ‘plaster sores’ can arise if the cast or bandage is put on too tight.

The most common causes of pressure sores are:

  • Failure to carry out an adequate assessment
  • Failure to prevent pressure sores by providing an adequate bed or providing proper nursing care
  • Putting on bandages too tight
  • Putting on plaster too tight

If you developed pressure/plaster sores as a result of medical negligence then you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

How to prevent pressure sores

In order to prevent the development of pressure sores, patients need to be assessed when admitted to hospital using the Waterlow system. Patients are given a score using the system, with the higher the Waterlow score, the higher the risk of bed sores developing.

Medical staff can then prevent sores by providing appropriate bedding materials and by doing whatever is necessary to make sure the patients are able to move about – up to and including manually turning them periodically.

To prevent the development of plaster sores, plaster casts should be applied correctly. If the patient complains about any area of pain or discomfort beneath the plaster cast then it should be removed immediately to assess the area for any sores or pressure ulcers.

How to treat pressure sores

Even with the appropriate risk assessments and preventative measures being followed, pressure sores can still develop in patients. In such cases it is important that the medical staff react and treat the sores immediately.

For less severe bed sores treatment can involve relieving pressure using specialist mattresses as well as regularly cleaning the affected area and applying appropriate dressing to keep the wound clean.

More serious cases could require a procedure known as debridement, which involves the removal of dead tissue from the wound and the surrounding area.

Pressure sore complications

As well as causing pain and discomfort, pressure sores can also lead to some very serious complications if they are not treated quickly and effectively. These complications include:

  • Blood poisoning (septicaemia)
  • Gas gangrene
  • Bone and joint infection
  • Cellulitis

Pressure sore grading

To measure the severity of different pressure sore cases, a grading system is in place running from grade 1 (less severe) to grade 4 (most severe). The classification of each pressure sore grade is as follows:

  • Grade 1: Discolouration of the skin
  • Grade 2: Partial thickness skin loss, presents like a blister
  • Grade 3: Full thickness skin loss, but damage of subcutaneous tissue, presents like a deep crater
  • Grade 4: Full thickness skin loss with extensive necrosis extending to the underlying tissue

Who is at risk of pressure sores?

Those most at risk of developing pressure/bed sores are:

  • People who find moving difficult and are unable to change position by themselves
  • Elderly people, as they tend to have poor circulation
  • Those who are not able to feel pain over some or all of their body
  • Those who suffer from incontinence, as the moisture can make the skin soft and lead to breaks in the skin
  • People who are seriously ill or have recently undergone surgery, as they will require extended periods of bed rest
  • Patients who have suffered from pressure sores in the past, as the weakened skin may be more prone to develop them again
  • Those who have a poor diet and/or don’t drink enough fluids. This is because the skin and other tissues do not get the nutrition that they need to be healthy

How to make a pressure sores compensation claim

In order to make a successful compensation claim for medical negligence, it must be shown that the pressure sores were caused by the negligence of medical staff (nurses, doctors etc…) or of the institution (hospital, care home etc…)

In cases of pressure sores, the negligence most commonly arises from the failure to carry out appropriate risk assessments using the Waterlow system – which then leads to a failure to administer the correct measures to ensure pressure sores do not develop.

Also, if pressure sores do develop then the failure in the medical staff to react and provide adequate treatment could also be seen as negligence – especially as there is a risk that pressure sores can lead to much more serious and even life-threatening conditions such as blood poisoning.

In order for the medical negligence claim to be successful, it must be proved that there were failures in maintaining appropriate standards of care which either caused or worsened your injury.

How much compensation for pressure sores?

The amount of compensation awarded for a pressure sore injury depends on a number of factors, particularly the severity of the injury, the degree of the neglect and the effects it has had on your day-to-day life. Other damages like what expenses the injury has caused and any loss of earning are also taken into account when deciding the payout amount.

For more information on pressure sore compensation payout amounts, see our personal injury claims payout guide.

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