According to NHS England, clinical negligence claims for pressure sores is around £4 billion a year, with the cost of some cases totaling £40,000 per person.
The number of claims for pressure ulcers and related conditions is rising. Although many people may suffer from the injury due to reduced mobility as well as a range of other factors, it is becoming more evident that patients are suffering from the pressure sores as a result of below-standard medical care and negligence.
What are Pressure Ulcers?
Pressure sores are caused by sustained pressure being placed on a particular part of the body, interrupting the blood supply to the affected area of the skin and forming an ulcer. They are more commonly known as bed sores or pressure sores and can often be seen in people with mobility problems. Pressure sores can be very painful and can quickly deteriorate to expose the muscle and, in the worst cases, exposing the bone.
They can be caused by
- Pressure from a hard surface
- Pressure that is place on the skin through involuntary muscle movements
- Moisture which breaks down the outer skin layer (epidermis)
The development of some pressure ulcers could suggest that the level of medical care a patient has received has been below the acceptable standard and the vast majority of pressure ulcers are preventable (over 95%).
Who is at Risk of Developing Pressure Sores?
People who are at risk of developing pressure sores include those with reduced mobility, vascular damage, poor nutrition, sensory impairment, those over 70 years old and patients who suffer from urinary or bowel incontinence.
Complications can often arise from some pressure ulcers and can sometimes, but rarely be life-threatening. This includes cellulitis, blood poisoning, bone or joint infection, necrotising fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) or gas gangrene.
The Prevention of Pressure Ulcers
The prevention of pressure sores can be received through patient care methods such as skin inspection, movement, good nutritional intake and hydration levels and risk identification and where these methods have been lacking, it could be argued that this is an indicator of negligence and the patient may be entitled to medical negligence compensation.
The Cost of Clinical Negligence Claims for Pressure Sores
With the cost of clinical negligence claims for pressure sores at around £4 billion a year and increasing, NHS England have taken steps to reduce the risk by developing a best practice leaflet for reducing the risk of pressure ulcers for medical staff, which has lead to a 50% decrease in cases across all NHS Trusts in England following its publication. It is still, however an issue for many people who question the level of care they have received as a patient or as a family member of a patient.
For some patients there can be long term pain and suffering and dependency on family, friends and other individuals to assist with regular dressing of wounds as well as the emotional and physical support which is required and this can be highly distressing.
Commenting on these recent findings, Jason Brady, clinical negligence Solicitor at Blackwater Law said:
‘The NHS are spending a huge amount of money tackling this issue which can be avoided in some cases with the correct standard of care, including regularly moving the patient from one position to another as well as protecting vulnerable parts of their body to prevent the ulcers from getting any worse. Whilst it is not always possible to prevent pressure ulcers, especially in vulnerable people, it can sometimes be an indication of poor standards of care.
Patients who are having medical treatment can often develop pressure ulcers, even if their previous medical issue or condition is unrelated and this can cause unnecessary pain and suffering and more long-term issues – sometimes in the worst cases it can result in surgery. In these cases, patients may be entitled to make a claim against the medical professionals who have been in charge of looking after them if the standard of care they have received has fallen below the accepted level and amounts to clinical negligence.’
Making your claim for clinical negligence
Patients may be able to make a claim for clinical negligence in regards to pressure ulcers and could be entitled to compensation. If you have suffered from pressure ulcers and would like to speak to someone about making a claim, contact Blackwater Law’s specialist clinical negligence solicitors for free initial advice and information. Contact us today on 0800 083 5500 to speak to one of our team.