Pressure sores are avoidable

Generally, yes.  Put simply the Department of Health says if you cannot answer yes to the question “Was everything done in order to prevent the sore?” then you cannot say that the sore was unavoidable.

Pressures sores and pressure ulcers can develop in the home or in hospital and will generally always be tended to by nursing staff including district nurses.  The best treatment is a combination of pressure relief by way of positioning and pressure relieving aids and use of the correct type of dressings.  Only in rare cases will surgeons get involved.

Pressure sores can be painful and debilitating.  In some cases they can be fatal particularly when they become infected and they can lead to overwhelming sepsis. 

The level of treatment, care and support needed as a result of pressure sore creates a huge social burden.  Patients can be rendered disabled meaning once the medics and nursing staff have retreated, someone needs to step in and take over and provide care and assistance where it wasn’t needed before.  Treating avoidable pressure sores is not simply a drain on the NHS but on society as a whole.  Yet, at Armstrong Foulkes we routinely investigate a number of cases each year concerning the development and management of pressures sores to patients buttocks, sacral areas and heels.  In some of these cases the patient is critically unwell.  They have perhaps had major surgery rendering them unable to move and reposition themselves and they need extensive care and for the reasons set out above this must include care of their pressure areas.

In some cases the patient is in hospital for something quite minor but without the correct mattress or cushion they develop a pressure sore that will take months of treatment and care to heal but took only a few hours to develop.

Here are some examples of the cases we have dealt with in recent years concerning pressure sores which should have been avoided:

Mr B – A 66 year old man had surgery to treat an aortic aneurysm and developed a sacral pressure sore due to the failure to provide him with an adequate mattress and cushion and a failure to reposition him sufficiently.  He remained at risk of future breakdowns and even 5 years later could not sit in a chair without pressure relief.  He recovered £55,000 in compensation.

Mrs B – A 77 year old woman admitted to hospital with a suspected urinary tract infection and other pre-existing medical conditions which put her at increased risk of pressure sores developed sores to both her heels when the nursing staff failed to adequately assess her risk of developing sores.  Without this assessment they then failed to put in place any care plan to prevent the development of sores.  Mrs B required years of treatment to her heels and her mobility became very restricted.  She recovered £34,000 in compensation.

Mr K – A 40 year old man was admitted to hospital for treatment of his testicular cancer.  He suffered a significant sacral sore.  The scar tissue itself became stuck right down to the bone.  The sore healed within 4 months but was painful on a daily basis.  He was the main carer for his disabled daughter and he was unable to provide the same level of care and assistance she needed as a result of a failure to provide a pressure relieving mattress.  Mr K recovered £80,000 in compensation.

Mr L – Mr L suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and had limited mobility.  He developed pressure sores to his heels when he was admitted to hospital overnight and was not nursed on a pressure relieving mattress.  He had continuous pain and his mobility was further limited.  In the first instance he recovered £47,500 in compensation.  This became a shocking case when only a couple of years later we were contacted by Mr L’s widow.  Her husband had passed away from an unrelated illness but in the final few months of his life he was tormented by the unnecessary development of pressure sores again because of a short admission at the same hospital during which he was not provided with adequate pressure relieving aids and care.  Mr L’s widow secured a further payment on behalf of her late husband’s estate.

Pressure sores are NOT minor or “non-serious injuries”.  Even once they have healed they can leave you with scars, pain and sensitivity and major restrictions on your daily life.  On top of that there is usually a risk of future breakdown.  At Armstrong Foulkes we would advise anyone who has suffered a pressure injury while in hospital or has had a pressure sore at home which has been looked after by community nurses to look into this further.  We are happy to discuss any such cases.  Please call us and speak to one of our solicitors on 01642 231110.  Alternatively please get in touch with us via our Contact page.

Ashleigh Holt – August 2016