Higgs supports Stop The Pressure Day

17 November 2022

On International Stop The Pressure Day, Jenny Tetlow, Senior Associate in the medical negligence team, looks at the impact of pressure ulcers on the individual and the cost to the NHS.

According to the NHS’s own figures, the cost of treating pressure ulcers – also known as bed sores – is £1.4 million every day.

They affect about 700,000 people a year in all care settings, mostly the over-75s.

While the cost to the NHS to deal with this largely avoidable health problem is undoubtedly significant, what about the cost to the individual affected?

Pressure sores occur when an individual is immobile and has remained in the same lying or seated position for too long. It results in sustained pressure on the body, which disrupts the flow of blood. This leads to the skin being starved of oxygen and nutrients, the consequence of which is a pressure ulcer.

While many pressure sores require minor nursing care, they can lead to serious complications: reduced mobility, longer hospital stays, even sepsis or death.

Any bed-bound patient – or an individual who is largely immobile – is at risk of developing a pressure ulcer, but the risk is greater among people with serious spinal cord injuries, those with neurological conditions or individuals with bad posture.

Unfortunately, many general healthcare providers lack the necessary knowledge about spinal cord injury and skin care. As a trusted partner of the Spinal Injuries Association, Higgs support the ‘Stop the Pressure’ campaign which aims to raise awareness of how to prevent pressure ulcers occurring, deteriorating, or recurring. So how is this done?

Early intervention is key; the sooner a pressure ulcer is treated, the quicker it is likely to heal. Poor nutrition is also a risk factor because loss of fat, tissue and muscle means there is less “padding” in the bony areas of the body such as the bottom and hips. Malnourishment also means the body is less able to cope with the healing process, so it’s important that a healthy diet is maintained.

There are also a range of techniques to prevent pressure sores from developing which include:

  • regularly changing position
  • using specially designed mattresses and cushions
  • eating a healthy diet
  • not smoking

Should you develop a pressure sore then treatment includes using dressings, creams and gels designed to speed up the healing process and relieve pressure. Healing is not a fast process, however, as long you have adequate pressure redistribution, good nutrition and appropriate wound management, the ulcer heals in most cases. 

We represent many families every year who have been affected by pressure ulcers which could have been avoided following appropriate checks.  The problems unfortunately only appear to be getting worse.  In the financial year 2020-2021, the NHS paid out £11.4 million damages to claimants who had sustained pressure sores which were avoidable.

By working together with the Spinal Injuries Association, we can offer support to patients who have needlessly suffered pressure sores following spinal cord injury or immobility.

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