Don't Ignore the Bed Sores

Michelmores Case Reports – Pressure Sores

A recent BBC investigation, using figures acquired under the Freedom of Information Act, has found that of 12,000 reported 'serious incidents' in English hospitals, 42% related to bed sores. Bed sores are entirely preventable, but can be fatal if infection sets in, meaning that what may begin as a lack of attention on the part of a nurse can quickly become a serious case of medical negligence.

The condition is caused by impeded blood-flow and can develop alarmingly quickly, particularly in the elderly or those weakened after surgery. Tissue damage and cell death can take place in a matter of hours, meaning that regular nursing attention is critical.

Caroline Webber-Brown is a solicitor with Michelmores' Clinical Negligence team, and recently represented two clients in pressure sore claims against Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro. She feels that, rather than being the most common reported issue in hospitals, bed sores should be almost unheard of.

Below are condensed reports of her two recent cases.

Patient 1

The first patient went into hospital for hip replacement surgery in 2009. 'She was identified as being at high risk of developing pressure sores on admission,' says Caroline, 'and even when the early warning signs of sores became apparent, she wasn't checked on every 2 hours, as per the guidelines.' Hospital staff left her unchecked for 4 days.

By the time appropriate care was finally put in place, the sores had become so severe that both her heels were necrotic - where extensive cell-death takes place, as in gangrene. 'Allowing things to get to that stage is a serious breach,' Caroline says. 'The client was wheelchair-bound for around six months - all for want of regular, five-minute check-ups.'

The case was settled in the sum of £11,000.

Patient 2

Following a three-week admission to Truro hospital, the patient was discharged and allowed home. It was here that his family noticed a large pressure sore on his left heel.  His GP diagnosed him with a grade three pressure sore, as well as cellulitis (where an infection had tracked from the sore into his leg). Sores of this severity can form a sizable cavity in the skin;  three months of pain and reduced mobility followed.

During the whole of the patient's three-week hospital stay, his pressure areas had never been checked. The nursing staff had failed to identify or record that he had even developed the sore; this fell to his family on his discharge. 'His family were shocked that he was unable to put on his shoe,' says Caroline. 'He ended up limping out of the hospital in his sock, in the pouring rain. The nursing staff should have noticed something this severe, particularly as it went on so long.'

The case settled in the sum of £12,500.

Follow the link below for the BBC's article on their investigation into hospital care:

If you would like to discuss a claim relating to pressure sores, please contact the Michelmores Clinical Negligence team for discreet, impartial advice.