Higgs LLP leading the fight against pressure sore ulcers

25th August 2021

Higgs LLP leading the fight against pressure sore ulcers

Pressure sore ulcers are avoidable and examples of clinical negligence should be brought to task, writes Mark Parsons, Professional Support Lawyer in the Personal Injury team.

The standard of care in our hospitals and nursing homes is generally very good, but it is sad reality that pressure sore ulcers as a result of clinical negligence are still all too common.

More than 1,300 new ulcers are reported each month – and we know that many are a direct result of poor care.

We have first-hand experience of helping people suffering from preventable pressure ulcers having acted to secure compensation for several families whose loved ones have not been given the level of care expected.

Often we see that risk assessments are completed but then not followed or updated. This can result in the development of pressure ulcers which are then susceptible to further breakdown.

What are Pressure Sore Ulcers?

Pressure sores can develop anywhere on the body though usually over bony areas.  Any patient is potentially at risk of developing a pressure ulcer, however, you are more likely to suffer them if you have:

  • a neurological condition,
  • impaired nutrition or
  • poor posture.

Chairs and beds not specially designed to provide relieve pressure can also lead to pressure ulcers.  It is estimated that 4-10% of all hospital in-patients develop new pressure ulcers in the UK and the rate in care homes is unknown, so it is important that they are managed effectively, yet mistakes can be made.

Pressure sores are a type of injury that break down the skin and underlying tissue, caused when an area of skin is placed under pressure.  This can be a large amount of pressure applied to an area of skin over a short period of time or when less pressure is applied over a longer period of time. 

The pressure disrupts the flow of blood through the skin and without a blood supply, the affected skin becomes starved of oxygen and nutrients and begins to break down, leading to an ulcer forming.  Also known as "bedsores" or "pressure ulcers", they range in severity from patches of discoloured skin to open wounds that expose the underlying bone or muscle.    

A range of techniques are used to prevent pressure sores from developing which include:

  • regularly changing position;
  • using equipment to protect vulnerable parts of the body, such as specially designed mattresses and cushions;
  • eating a healthy and balanced diet and
  • quitting smoking if you are a smoker.

Should you develop them then the treatment includes using dressings, creams and gels designed to speed up the healing process and relieve pressure.  Healing is not usually a fast process, however, as long you have adequate pressure redistribution, good nutrition and appropriate wound management, the ulcer will heal in most cases.  For some people, pressure sores are an inconvenience that require minor nursing care, but for others they can be serious and lead to life-threatening complications, such as blood poisoning or gangrene and require surgery.

Those with extensive superficial pressure sores, Grade 3 or 4 pressure sores, or those that are deteriorating should be referred to a specialist service.  If you have a Grade 1 pressure sore you are at a significant risk of developing more severe ulcers and should receive interventions to prevent deterioration.  This can be in the form of pain relief and infection control. 

Nutritional support should be given to patients who have an identified nutritional deficiency.  If you are recognised as poorly nourished and at risk of pressure ulceration, then you should be referred to a dietician.

If you have suffered a press sore as a result of clinical negligence, please contact us to see how we can help.



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