Pressure sores, also known as bedsores or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissues caused by prolonged pressure on particular body parts. They can affect any person but are most common in bedridden patients or those who sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods.
A pressure sore can affect any part of the body but usually develops on bony regions such as the hips, tailbone, heels and elbows. They often form gradually over days, but it can take as little as a few hours for them to develop, depending on the pressure.
Early identification and treatment are essential to prevent sores from reaching the deeper layers of the skin. A deep wound may affect the muscle and bone and lead to complications such as infections, cellulitis, sepsis and even gangrene.
Hospitals and other healthcare providers have a duty to take all reasonable measures to prevent the development of pressure sores. This includes regularly changing a patient’s position, keeping their skin dry and clean, and using suitable mattresses and wheelchairs.
If these responsibilities are neglected, and a patient develops pressure sores, these can add substantial pain and suffering to their condition.
If you or a loved one suffered from a pressure sore due to the negligence of a medical professional, you might be entitled to pressure sore compensation.
To find out if you have a valid pressure sore claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser. If your case is valid, they will offer you a no win o fee service so that you can take legal action without financial risks or upfront costs.
Can I make a pressure sore claim?
If you or a loved one suffered a pressure sore while under the care of a medical professional, you might be able to claim compensation. The easiest way to find out if you have a valid pressure sore claim is to seek legal advice. Usually, this should be possible if:
- Another party owed you a duty of care
- They breached that duty by acting negligently
- You developed a pressure sore as a result
Every healthcare professional has the duty to provide competent and skilful assistance to patients. Pressure sores are almost always preventable, so when they do develop, it is most likely due to negligence. Your solicitor will work to show that your healthcare provider is liable for your injury by proving:
A breach of duty
If a medical professional or care worker failed to provide a reasonable standard of care accepted in the medical field, they breached their duty of care toward you. For example, if they overlooked the signs of a pressure sore or did not follow the correct procedures to keep it from worsening.
For your claim to be successful, your solicitor must prove that you developed a pressure sore as a direct result of negligence. This is a pretty straightforward task, as almost all sores are completely preventable with appropriate care provided by the medical staff.
You must have clear evidence of the harm you suffered due to the substandard care you received. Your medical records and an expert examination will serve as proof for general damages such as pain and suffering. You can also claim pressure sore compensation for any financial losses you incurred because of your injury.
With the help of your solicitor, there are some pieces of evidence you should try to collect to support your claim, such as:
- Medical records stating the severity of your bed sores and any treatments you received
- Relevant photographs of your injuries
- Witness statements from friends and family
- Written notes about how your pressure sore developed and how this affected your life
- A report from an independent medical expert with specialist knowledge in the field
- Proof of any financial losses and expenses you incurred due to developing bed sores
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a pressure sore claim and can answer any questions you may have.
What are pressure sores?
Pressure sores, also referred to as pressure ulcers or bed sores, are localised damage to the skin and underlying tissues. They usually develop over a bony prominence, and the most commonly affected sites are:
- The sacrum, bottom or lower back
- The elbows or shoulders
- The heels or ankles
- The back of the head
Bed sores occur due to pressure, or pressure combined with friction or shear. This will cause complete or partial obstruction of the blood flow to the soft tissues. Pressure sores most commonly develop in individuals who are bedridden or consistently use a wheelchair.
While it usually takes several days for sores to develop, the first signs can become apparent much sooner. Within two hours of maintaining the same position, this can lead to a shortage of blood supply, causing tissue damage and cell death.
The early symptoms of a pressure sore that should be a warning sign to the medical staff include:
- A painful or itchy area
- The affected skin feels warm, spongy or hard
- Red or purple patches on the skin that do not turn white when pressed
Without taking immediate precautions, pressure sores will gradually worsen and may lead to potentially life-threatening complications. There are several treatments available, but complete healing is not always possible.
In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Nursing and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety have published guidelines to identify people at risk for developing a pressure sore and take preventive actions. A failure to comply with these guidelines could mean your healthcare provider is liable to pay you pressure sore compensation.
To find out if you have a valid pressure sore claim, call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser. Or, if you prefer, you can enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back.
The grading of pressure sores
When a person is immobile for some time, they are at risk of developing a pressure sore. It can take as little as a few hours for sores to appear, so the medical staff must take all reasonable precautions to prevent this from happening. A failure to do so might entitle you to make a pressure sore claim.
If bedsores are noticed early, they can be treated and cured. Without immediate treatment, they can gradually worsen and affect the underlying tissues like muscles and bones. This can be extremely painful and cause life-threatening complications. A severe pressure ulcer can be treated, but it is unlikely it will heal completely.
Nurses, carers, and other healthcare professionals must be able to recognise and categorise pressure sores based on the severity of the injury. A patient might be able to claim pressure sore compensation if they develop any of the following grades of pressure sore:
Grade 1 pressure sore
This is the mildest stage, where only the upper layer of the skin is affected. The skin is still intact and may feel different from the surrounding area, such as firmer, softer, warmer or cooler. You may also notice redness that does not get whiter when you press on it, meaning less blood is getting to the area.
Other symptoms may include pain, burning or itching. The staff looking after you must take all necessary measures to stop the pressure by frequently changing position, using a foam pillow or mattress and gently washing the area. With care, a stage 1 pressure sore may go away within a few days.
Grade 2 pressure sore
This occurs when the sores dig deeper below the skin surface and present as an intact or ruptured blister. A stage 2 sore may look like a dry or shiny shallow ulcer without slough or bruising. The area appears swollen, warm and painful and may ooze clear fluid or pus.
This stage is more severe and may become infected when left untreated. The staff should follow the same steps for stage 1 sores and keep the wound covered with a see-through dressing or moist gauze. A stage 2 pressure sore should get better within three weeks.
Grade 3 pressure sore
This is where pressure ulcers affect the deeper layer of the skin. It may look like a crater, and subcutaneous fat tissue may be visible, but bone, muscle or tendons are not exposed. Slough may be present together with signs of infection such as pus, odour, heat or drainage.
At this stage, sores might need special care. Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics and may need to remove any dead tissue, and you may also need to use a special bed or mattress. Grade 3 pressure sores may take between one to four months to heal.
Grade 4 pressure sore
Grade 4 bed sores are severe injuries that might affect the muscle, tendons and ligaments and expose the bone. They are deep and quite large, and the skin has turned black and shows signs of infection. The wound needs immediate medical attention and, most likely, surgery. A stage 4 sore may take anywhere from three months to years to heal, and it may never resolve.
If you developed any degree of bed sores due to negligent care, you might be able to make a pressure sore claim. To find out if you have a valid case, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.
What causes pressure sores?
Pressure sores can develop due to several factors, all of which must be taken into account when caring for a bedridden or disabled person. Four main mechanisms contribute to the development of bed sores:
- Pressure – The pressure applied on the patient’s skin by hard surfaces such as beds, wheelchairs or plaster casts can obstruct the blood flow to the area. This deprives tissues of oxygen and nutrients, leading to oedema, inflammation, necrosis, and ulcer formation.
- Friction – When the skin rubs against surfaces such as clothes or bed sheets, this could damage the superficial blood vessels, especially in vulnerable patients. The skin over the elbows and the back is more likely to be injured due to friction.
- Shearing – Shear is defined as an internal opposing motion of tissue created when a patient is sitting in a bed or chair. Gravity affects these tissues by pulling them down slowly and gradually, which may lead to tearing of the tissue and blood flow restriction to the area, which increases the risk of developing a pressure sore.
- Moisture – Excess moisture from sweat, heat, or incontinence is a common bed sores culprit. This can further exacerbate the damage caused by pressure, friction and shearing and lead to maceration of the surrounding skin, potentially expanding the injured area.
Many other factors can increase the risk of pressure sore development. The Waterlow scale evaluates the primary factors associated with the risk of developing sores, where each risk factor is assigned a point value based on severity.
After the assessment, the points get summed up to give the risk score, which may range from 1 to 64. The maximum score shows near certainty that the patient will develop bed sores. The medical staff should regularly carry out a Waterlow assessment and adjust the patient’s care plan when necessary.
This chart scores each individual on the following factors:
- The patient’s Body Mass Index (BMI)
- The skin type (e.g. overly dry skin, discolouration or spots)
- The sex and age
- Mobility issues
- A malnutrition score
- Special risks, such as diabetes, paraplegia, smoking
A failure to undertake the Waterlow Risk Assessment or adjust the care as recommended by the patient’s score may be the basis for a pressure sore compensation claim.
Who is most at risk of suffering from pressure sores?
Although anyone can develop a pressure sore, several risk factors make some people more susceptible to these, including if they:
- Are confined to a bed or chair and cannot move without assistance
- Are unable to tell when a pressure sore forms, such as those with spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions or limited sensory perception
- Are obese, or, even worse, malnourished
- Have a poor diet which does not include enough protein, vitamin A and C, or enough iron and zinc
- Are dehydrated
- Suffer from urinary or bowel incontinence, which brings excess moisture to the skin
- Are a smoker, which can lead to a partial or total loss of blood circulation to certain body areas
- Are over 70, which could mean they are less mobile and have drier skin
- Have a history of pressure ulcers
- Suffer from any condition that restricts blood flow, such as diabetes, peripheral artery disease or varicose veins
- Have a condition that makes movement difficult, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
- Suffer from a condition that makes the skin more fragile
Hospitals and other care providers must recognise these risk factors and take the necessary precautions to protect vulnerable patients from developing pressure sores. If bed sores are not identified and treated on time, they can lead to severe and life-threatening complications, such as:
- Bone and joint infections
- Cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection
- Gas gangrene, a rare infection with clostridium that can cause severe pain and swelling
- Abscesses and blood poisoning (sepsis)
- Damage to the heels, which can make walking painful and challenging
- Development of extensive necrotic tissue, which may need amputation
- Cancer, if the sores do not get proper treatment for long periods
If you developed pressure sores or any related complications because your healthcare provider failed to acknowledge your risk factors and take proper precautions, you might be able to claim compensation.
How are pressure sores treated?
If your healthcare provider delivered substandard care and you developed pressure sores, the treatment will depend on at what stage the sore was identified.
A grade 1 and 2 pressure sore can be treated and prevented from worsening by:
- Relieving the pressure by regularly repositioning the patient
- Providing them with a specially designed pressure-relieving mattress or cushion
- Cleaning the wound with water or a saltwater solution
- Keeping the sore covered with a see-through dressing to protect it from further damage and speed up the healing process
If the sore has developed into a grade 3 or 4 open wound, you may need special care and treatments, such as:
- Systemic or topical antibiotics, if the ulcers show signs of infection or if there is evidence of advancing cellulitis or sepsis.
- Debridement is a procedure to clean the wound and remove any damaged or dead tissue, which can be done in five different ways:
- Autolytic debridement, by using moist dressings that promote the digestion of the necrotic tissue by the body’s enzymes. It is a slow but painless process, effective in individuals with a compromised immune system.
- Biological debridement uses medical maggots that feed on dead tissue and clean the wound of bacteria.
- Chemical debridement is the use of enzymes that promote dead tissue removal.
- Mechanical debridement uses a procession of moist to wet dresses, which are afterwards manually removed. This can also lead to the removal of healthy tissue and can be quite painful for the patient.
- Surgical debridement is the fastest method and allows a surgeon to quickly remove dead tissue.
- Other treatments include:
- Anabolic steroids to promote the growth of skeletal muscle and restore muscle mass
- Negative pressure wound therapy, which is a dressing system that can help the sores heal faster
- Phototherapy, a treatment that uses natural or artificial light to promote healing
- Using support surfaces such as specially designed beds, mattresses and pillows that distribute the surface pressure more evenly and protect vulnerable body parts
- Reconstructive surgery, for deep or hard-to-heal sores, by using fat, muscle or skin from other parts of the body to fill the wound
- Providing a healthy and balanced diet and plenty of water, which is essential both to prevent and promote the healing of pressure sores
If you developed bed sores that required treatment due to negligent care, you might be eligible for pressure sore compensation. To find out if you have a valid claim, call 0800 678 1410 or enter your details to speak with a legal adviser.
Can you sue for bed sores in the UK?
Almost all pressure sores can be avoided by taking simple preventive measures such as regularly moving the patient to relieve pressure. If you or someone you love developed bed sores during a hospital stay or in a care home, you may have been the victim of negligence.
Developing pressure sores due to a substandard level of care might be considered medical negligence. In the United Kingdom, you have three years to start a personal injury claim for negligence from the date your injuries were diagnosed.
The first thing you should do if you believe you have a valid pressure sore claim is seek legal advice. By calling free on 0800 678 1410, you will get a free consultation with a legal adviser to discuss your case. They will ask you a few questions to determine if you might be entitled to pressure sore compensation.
If your case has merit and you decide to proceed with a claim, your solicitor will help you gather evidence to determine the extent of your injury and the financial losses you incurred. Based on this, they will calculate how much compensation you could receive if your case is successful.
The next step will be to inform the other side of your allegations of negligence and begin to negotiate a settlement. Your claim could be against:
- The NHS – in this case, your compensation will be paid by NHS Resolution, the insurance company that settles all medical negligence claims against the National Health Service.
- A private healthcare provider – all private medical professionals must hold the same duty of care towards patients as NHS providers and have liability insurance to cover personal injury claims. Your solicitor will negotiate with their insurer to secure the maximum pressure sore compensation you are entitled to receive.
If the defendant denies liability or does not agree with your compensation requests, you might have to argue your claim before a judge. They will evaluate the available evidence and decide on a suitable award for your damages.
The compensation award will cover two types of damages:
- General damages for pain, suffering, psychological injury and other subjective losses
- Special damages for any financial losses and expenses that are directly related to your injury
According to the Judicial College guidelines, you could receive:
- £860 to £3,710 for bed sores that are noticed early and cause minor discomfort
- £3,710 to £8,950 for a pressure sore that became an open wound, causing a fair level of pain and suffering
- £8,950 to £18,020 for severe pressure sores that have gone unnoticed or untreated for quite some time and cause a high level of pain and suffering
- £36,060 to £49,270 for a very severe sore that has gone untreated for a long time and may cause death without emergency treatment
To start your pressure sore claim, speak to a trained legal adviser by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation.
What are examples of pressure sore negligence?
If you or a loved one developed pressure sores in a hospital or care home, this is usually a sign of negligence, as they are almost always preventable. Medical professionals should receive training to spot potential risk factors and the symptoms of a pressure sore and follow the correct procedures to ensure they do not develop.
If you received substandard care from a healthcare practitioner and developed pressure sores, you might be eligible to make a pressure sore claim. The majority of negligence cases involve a failure to:
- Find out the patient’s Waterlow score.
- Consider the risk factors that increase a patient’s chances of developing a bed sore.
- Follow the prevention plan suggested by the Waterlow assessment.
- Check the patients for signs of pressure sores during their hospital or care home stay.
- Diagnose the symptoms of a pressure sore before it develops into an open wound or infection.
- Provide adequate training to nurses and carers to identify and treat pressure sores.
- Use appropriate wound dressings or pressure ulcer equipment such as pressure-relieving mattresses or speciality wheelchairs.
- Adjust the bed elevation to prevent shearing.
- Regularly reposition a patient at risk for developing sores.
- Provide good, nutritious meals rich in protein, vitamins and minerals such as zinc and iron.
- Keep the patient’s skin clean and dry.
Your solicitor might arrange a free visit with an independent medical expert who will assess your treatment to see whether it was negligent or if your sores were unavoidable. They will also review your injuries and how they might affect you in the future. Their medical report will be an essential piece of evidence in your pressure sore claim.
Your solicitor will also review your medical records and speak to witnesses to prove your healthcare provider is liable for your wound. If you have any photographs of the pressure sore and any treatments you received, these could further help your case.
Can I claim pressure sore compensation on behalf of somebody else?
Any individual who developed pressure sores due to the negligence of another party is entitled to make a compensation claim. Some victims, however, may not possess the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings and will need a litigation friend to represent them.
Under the Court of Protection Rules 2017, you could act as a litigation friend on behalf of:
- A child under 18 – you can make a pressure sore claim on their behalf at any point before they turn 18. After becoming an adult, they are then considered to possess the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings. At this point, your role as a litigation friend ends whether the claim is concluded or not.
- An adult who cannot claim due to:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health conditions
- An intellectual disability such as Down syndrome or autism
- A severe mental disorder such as schizophrenia or major depression
- A neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease
- A traumatic brain injury or stroke
- There is no time limit to claim pressure sore compensation on behalf of someone who lacks mental capacity. Your role of litigation friend ends if they regain their intellectual ability or recover from their illness.
- A loved one who passed away due to pressure ulcer complications – you could make a pressure sore claim within three years after the date of death, or an autopsy revealed the cause of their death.
- You could also represent a victim whose first language is not English and who would have difficulty communicating with their solicitor.
To become a litigation friend, you must file a certificate of suitability with the court, which your solicitor will be able to assist with. This will state that:
- You can represent the victim fairly and competently
- You have no conflict of interest with the person in question
If you take on the role of litigation friend on behalf of a loved one, you will have many responsibilities, including:
- Make sure the victim attends all their medical appointments
- Keep them informed about the case and try to find out what their wishes are
- Approve and sign legal documents and deal with correspondence
- Regularly consult with the solicitor to take legal advice
- Make decisions regarding the claim and consider any compensation offers
- Keep updated on proceedings and pay any fees requested by the court
To learn more about claiming pressure sore compensation on behalf of someone else, call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser. Alternatively, you can enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back.
Can pressure sore claims be made using no win no fee?
If your case has merit, your solicitor will offer you a no win no fee service. This removes any financial risk from making a pressure sore claim because you do not have to pay anything to anyone unless you receive compensation.
Under a no win no fee agreement, your solicitor will not charge a fee unless your claim is successful. If they believe you have a fair chance to get compensation, your solicitor will begin working on your case and offer support and advice at every stage. If you lose the claim, you do not have to pay them anything.
Furthermore, they will also take an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy on your behalf at the beginning of the claim. The ATE insurance provides financial coverage for all legal expenses in case you lose the pressure sore claim, such as:
- The defendant’s solicitor and court fees
- The cost of an independent medical report your solicitor will arrange for you
- Barrister and expert witness fee, if the case goes to court
- Court and counsel’s fees
Claiming pressure sore compensation on a no win no fee basis removes all the stress associated with taking legal action. Your solicitor will help you gather evidence, talk to witnesses, handle all the legal documents and contact the other side to negotiate your settlement.
In a no win no fee claim, you only pay anything after receiving compensation. The following expenses will be deducted from your compensation award:
- Some basic legal fees that could not be recovered from the defendant
- The cost of the ATE insurance premium
- A success fee that you pay to your solicitor for winning the case. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation.
The no win no fee service is the preferred way to pursue a pressure sore claim because you will not be left out of pocket whether you win or lose. To start your claim, speak to a trained legal adviser by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation. Alternatively, you can enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back.