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Pressure sore & ulcer compensation claims

As many nursing professionals and carers are aware, pressure sores or injuries involve damage to surface areas of skin and, in some cases, internal tissue. Caused by friction or bodyweight over a sustained period, pressure injuries tend to develop relatively quickly when individuals are sedentary. In bed-bound patients, terms such as bedsores and lying down ulcers also refer to the characteristic skin discolouration and associated discomfort.

Although pressure sores take time to heal and can be debilitating, their prevention is relatively straightforward. Good nursing is vital; every patient with reduced mobility needs to have a preventive care and nursing plan.

Unfortunately, however, when the skin is subject to prolonged contact and a consequent restriction in blood flow, the risks increase. Read on to discover how to prevent pressure sores, recognise the symptoms and obtain further support and professional advice if necessary.

Preventing Pressure Sores

Because pressure injuries are notoriously difficult to treat, especially in elderly patients, the emphasis has to be on prevention rather than cure. Daily skincare, a healthy diet, adequate hydration and regular changes of posture or position are essential. Those parts of the body that are at particular risk include thin, delicate skin over areas of bone such as the elbows, the heels, the back of the head and the tailbone (coccyx).

Supportive devices and lifestyle changes, where necessary, will help to improve and maintain skin quality. Crucially, patients at high risk of pressure sores need to have routine nursing assessments.

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Changing Position

When caring for someone, it is important to relieve pressure and reduce the time in which their limbs, areas of the torso and head are stationary. Where helpful, use a pillow as a soft buffer between the skin and the bed or chair to boost comfort levels. 

People who have to stay in bed for most of the time ought to change position at least once every two hours, including during the night. It is best to avoid lying directly on the hipbone. Bedridden patients are susceptible to pressure sores on the back and sides of the head, as well as the sides of the knees, ankles and toes. 

Wheelchair users should shift position within their chair at least every fifteen minutes or so, paying particular attention to where the body rests against the metal structure. In addition to the areas at risk detailed above, pay additional attention to the shoulder blades and the back of the legs. 

Daily Skin Care

Every day, check the skin for redness or signs of discolouration. Pressure injuries are more likely to occur if the skin is too dry or too moist, so hydrate correctly with a gentle moisturiser to keep the skin supple and prevent dryness. Avoid massaging movements near areas of bone, as the flesh is particularly delicate in these regions.

Diet and Lifestyle

Observing a healthy, nutritious diet is most helpful, along with regular and effective hygiene. To boost circulation, maintain activity levels where possible and – importantly – avoid smoking. 

Signs and Symptoms of Pressure Sores

During regular skin checks, look for early indications of problems such as swollen skin and red or blue discolouration. Remember to pay special attention to bony areas. If you detect signs of infection, including high skin temperature, cracks, calluses and wrinkles, do not delay. Call the doctor, community nurse or care specialist as soon as possible.

Pressure Sore Grading

When a person is bed bound, those parts of the body that are in firm contact with the mattress are likely to suffer pressure. As a result, skin discolours. For similar reasons, patients confined to chairs also require close monitoring. 

Health professionals classify pressure injuries in four groups of ascending severity:

Grade I

Red, blue, purple or black skin discolouration typifies Grade 1 pressure sores. 

Grade II

In Grade 2 sores, some damage occurs to the topmost layers of skin and there is an elevated risk of ulceration. 

Grade III

With Grade 3 symptoms, there is some necrosis (death) or damage to layers of skin in a patched area. 

Grade IV

More seriously, Grade 4 pressure injuries feature skin necrosis with damage to underlying tendons, joints or bones.

Risk Factors

Because older people tend to have thinner skin, they are often prone to pressure ulcers when hospitalised or if confined to bed at home. Pressure sores tend to appear with constant contact over time, especially with poor circulation or other predisposing conditions.

Notably, tobacco consumption impedes capillary circulation near the surface of the skin. In smokers, healing is slower than usual. Pressure ulcers can occur at any age but are more common in patients who are dehydrated, over seventy years old, obese, or who have experienced significant recent weight loss.

 

Significant risk factors include: 

  • Paralysis.
  • Lack of mobility due to head injuries or a stroke.
  • Sitting or lying down for extended periods.
  • Circulatory system disorders, due to reduced blood flow in capillaries.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Diabetes.
  • Incontinence.

Complications due to Pressure Sores

If left untreated, pressure sores are likely to worsen. In such cases, it is vital to avoid infection. With less severe symptoms, treatment involves relieving the force on the affected area, cleaning the wound regularly and applying suitable dressings. However, for more severe incidences, the removal of dead tissue may become necessary.

Unfortunately, delays in treatment or diagnosis can exacerbate the symptoms of soreness, worsen the discomfort and lengthen the healing process. In the worst cases, complications include sepsis, cellulitis, infections and squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer. Necrosis, or the death of tissue due to the failure of its blood supply, can even become life-threatening. 

Pressure Sore Compensation Claims

Occasionally, even with the correct level of care, some patients still develop sores. If you or a person in your care has been affected by delayed diagnosis, you could have a valid claim for compensation. For a significant number of clients, our team of medical experts is able to determine that such problems were avoidable. Medical negligence complaints and pressure sore claims might include, for instance:

  • Failure to carry out adequate and proper risk assessments, including miscalculating the level of risk.
  • Poor treatment or failing to use pressure ulcer equipment.
  • Inadequately trained nurses.
  • Poor record keeping.
  • Delays in treatment.

Support and Advice

If you or a member of your family has experienced bedsores or pressure sores, possibly due to negligent care or inadequate treatment, we invite you to discuss the circumstances with our legal specialists. Contact us here today or, if you prefer, telephone our advisers on 03339 874161 to receive a free initial assessment. Naturally, all calls are in confidence.

About your claim

How much you can claim will depend on a number of factors related to the injury received from negligence, malpractice or defective medical product. Some of those factors are listed below:

  • Degree of pain, suffering and ongoing problems caused
  • Loss of earnings from being unable to work / return to work
  • Support and care that you need now and in the future related to your injury
  • Support for modifications made to your home
  • Specialist mobility equipment required

The first thing to do is to get in touch with us so we can provide a free consultation and discuss your case. We can quickly work out if you have a claim by asking a few questions. We will also let you know if you will benefit from a No win no fee arrangement. If after your free consultation you decide to proceed with a compensation claim we will proceed with the stages below.

Investigation Stage
We need to determine the extent of your injury and any monetary losses directly related to your injury / illness. It may be necessary to have a medical examination carried out to accurately identify your injury and asses your suffering.

Compensation Calculation
We will calculate how much compensation you are likely to receive from a successful claim taking into account the various factors associated with your injury including loss of income, pain and suffering, medical expenses and future expenses including future care and specialists equipment and any modifications necessary to your home. We then will put this amount to your opponent and they have two options. Accept the claim, or contest the claim.

Conclusion
If your opponent accepts then you will be awarded the compensation due. If they do not accept the claim then the next phase will be court proceedings. Please not this does not always mean a case goes to trial it simply means a court takes over management of the case where an opponent still has the opportunity to settle your claim. If you have to go to court rest assured we will be with you every step of the way. And remember if we agreed to handle your claim under a no win no fee agreement then you will not have to pay anything if your claim was unsuccessful.

As with almost all compensation claims of this type you have three years from the date of the injury / illness caused to start a claim. Sometimes there are exceptions, for example people unable to make their own legal decisions such as children or adults unable to make there own legal decisions.

In the case of defective medical equipment / products a claim must also be made within 10 years of that product going into circulation. This cannot be extended. Time limits are always on a case by case basis. We can of course help identify this when investigating your claim.

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