What is the Waterlow Score?


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The Waterlow Score is a framework for hospital, residential and care workers to assess the risk of pressure ulcers and prevent their patients from suffering from them. It is by far the most frequently used pressure sore system in the UK and is the most simple to follow for health professionals.

If as a patient you become bed-bound due to an illness or injury, the medical staff treating you could use the Waterlow Score to evaluate the risk of you developing a pressure sore. If they fail to follow the guidelines regarding patients then it could be a case of medical negligence.

The Waterlow Score is a very simple risk assessment tool that helps medical professionals determine whether the patient is at risk of developing a pressure sore, and is commonly used in hospital wards, A+E departments and nursing homes around the UK.

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The Waterlow scoring system

Using the Waterlow Scorecard, health professionals will assess the seven factors that contribute to pressure sores and ulcers. These are the patients:

  • Body Mass Index
  • Sex and age
  • Level of continence
  • Skin condition (i.e. is it healthy or broken)
  • Appetite
  • Level of mobility
  • Other risk factors such as medication, surgery and trauma

The patient will then be given a score for each of these risk factors. This score will be used alongside the medical professional’s own clinical expertise and judgement to place the patient into one of the following three categories of risk:

  • "At risk" – a score of 10-14
  • "High risk" – a score of 15-19
  • "Very high risk" – a score of 20 and above

Why is the Waterlow Score used?

A recognised system such as the Waterloe Score is required to help medical staff create a plan for each individual patient. This could include reassessing what type of dressing they use on a certain wound, changing the bedding and mattress used and developing a suitable nutrition plan to help the wound heal.

Giving a patient a specific score relating to pressure sores also means nurses and medical staff can effectively assess the patient’s recovery as them move from a hospital bed back to their own bed at home or at a nursing home.

What if the Waterlow Score system is not used?

Although it is used widely across the UK, there are cases where the Waterlow Score system is not followed by medical professionals. If it is not applied it doesn’t automatically mean there has been medical negligence, or that further injury or illness is inevitable – however it could increase the risk of pressure sores developing.

If you think you have a case for medical negligence in relation to the Waterlow Score and pressure sores, and would like to talk to a professional injury solicitor about making a No Win No Fee* claim, get in touch with CL Legal today:

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