Pressure sores and the importance of mobility

Concerns have been raised about the potential impact on patients developing pressure sores and the number of associated pressure sore claims as a result of changes to treatment, care and delays that may have arisen due to COVID-19.

What is a pressure sore?

Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers and bed sores are injuries that occur to the skin and underlying tissue due to prolonged pressure on the skin. They can occur to anyone but usually impact those confined to bed, or those who use a wheelchair or chair for a long period of time. Although they can occur on most parts of the body, they are more common on bony parts of the body such as elbows, ankles, base of the spine and the hips.

Pressure sores can have a debilitating impact on a patient’s recovery often leading to increased time in hospital as well as costing the NHS more than £1.4 million each day in treating them. In addition, the vast majority of pressure sores are wholly avoidable if guidance and care protocols are followed. In instances where a pressure sore develops it is likely the patient may seek pressure sore compensation as a result of their suffering.

Pressure sores are classified into different groups according to the severity and impact ranging from a category 1 where the patient may suffer from pain or itchiness in the area, through to a category 4 – the most severe where the injury may reach the bone or muscle. It is usually those patients suffering from a category 2 or above that may seek bed sore claims as a result of the injury that they have incurred.

Healthcare professionals have been asked to be extra vigilant in their treatment of individuals who are at a heightened risk of developing pressure sores, such as those who may suffer from mobility related issues and those aged over 70. Due to COVID-19 it is likely that some patients are experiencing extended stays in hospital due to treatment cancellations and therefore it is important that they are mobilised regularly to minimise the risk of a pressure sore. In addition, due to the distribution of clinicians and medical professionals across different wards it is likely that not all staff would have the comprehensive knowledge of best practice for wound dressing and therefore should follow the NHS framework closely in order to help minimise the potential for patients to suffer from pressure sores during this time period.

For those seriously ill and suffering from respiratory compromise, such as those with pneumonia or COVID-19, they may be placed in the prone position. This is where they will be placed lying in a horizontal position with the front of the body facing downwards. The purpose of placing patients in the prone position is to help improve lung perfusion and oxygenation. However, this poses increased challenges for those caring for the patients in order to minimise the risk of the patient developing pressure sores due to the fact that they are not repositioned as often. Medical care providers therefore need to closely adhere to strict guidance in order to minimise the risk of pressure sores occurring and any associated pressure sore negligence claim arising.

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