Pressure sores are localised injuries to the body’s surface and can affect anyone, on any part of their body, depending on the source of pressure. If you’ve got pressure sores and they weren’t your fault, you could be eligible to claim compensation.
Also known as bed sores or pressure ulcers, the name indicates just how serious and painful they can be if left untreated.
Where your pressure sores result from negligent treatment or neglect, those responsible can expect to face pressure sore compensation claims from injured patients.
Pressure sores are typically caused by laying or sitting in a static position for lengthy periods of time without moving. The result of immobility is that it impairs essential blood supply to underlying tissue.
But given that pressure sores can develop within a matter of hours, it’s a risk that should be taken seriously by all healthcare professionals and carers – whether in the NHS or in private clinics and care homes.
If an inpatient develops a pressure sore, they will undoubtedly need a lengthier stay in hospital while their sores are treated.
In fact, the problem has been recognised as one of the biggest patient safety challenges facing the NHS, costing it more than £1.4m every day.
A pressure sore is an injury to the patient’s skin and the soft tissue immediately below the skin – and often the bone – as a result of pressure being placed on it for a prolonged period of time. If you or a loved one is bedridden, for instance, you’re prone to bedsores on your head and hips, the shoulder blades and the heels and ankles.
The NHS says pressure sores mostly affect bony areas of the body such as the heels and hips and the base of the spine – these bony parts of the body have less cushioning from soft tissue, making them more prone to developing a pressure sore.
However, if treated quickly a pressure sore can heal fairly promptly with little if any ill-effects. The usual treatment is having appropriate dressings applied; relieving the pressure on the wound; and regular cleaning and dressing of the wound.
If there are signs of infection, antibiotics will most likely be necessary to prevent the infection spreading and causing serious illness. In serious cases, surgery may be needed to remove any dead tissue, for example if gangrene has developed, and to close the wound. Skin grafts could also become necessary.
Once healed (if, indeed, it’s treatable), it’s vital for health professionals and carers to keep a close eye on the individual to ensure the wound completely heals, prompt detection and treatment of infection and no further pressure sore is allowed to develop.
Quite simply – yes.
If you have at least a reasonably strong case, your personal injury solicitor can take on your pressure sore compensation claim on a no win no fee basis.
No win no fee negligence claims removes the financial risk to you in making a claim. It means that in the unlikely event your claim fails, you won’t have to pay any legal costs to your specialist solicitors; nor will there be any upfront charges or hidden costs.
And if you do win your bedsore compensation claim, you will recover the compensation you rightly deserve. Out of your compensation, you will then pay your medical negligence solicitor a ‘success fee’ as a percentage of the compensation you receive, but this will only take up a maximum of 25% – so you’ll still get to keep most of it.
Click here to find out more about the pressure sores compensation claims process.
Once a pressure sore is identified, medics diagnose it according to a grading system in which six categories have been recognised, depending on its seriousness. Pressure sore grading is as follows:
Early warning signs of a pressure wound include discolouration of the area (Stage 1); it starts to feel warm, hard or spongy; and itchiness or pain.
If undetected or left untreated, an open wound or blister appears which can reach deeper until it may reach the muscle and bone (stage 5 or unstageable).
Bedsores are invariably avoidable if the right care is provided. If you’ve developed a pressure sore while under the care of doctors or in a care setting, you could claim compensation.
Pressure sore negligence claims are a means to recover compensation to help you recover physically and to get back to normal.
In the three years to 2017-2018, the number of pressure sore claims against the NHS rose 43%
Pressure sores develop when constant pressure is placed on an area of the skin of someone who is immobile. Friction on the same area of the body can also lead to a pressure sore.
The tissue is permanently compressed when a patient is sitting or lying in the same position; the blood flow to that part of the body is restricted; and a pressure sore start to develop.
Steps to relieve pressure for just 5 minutes every 1-2 hours reduces the risk of pressure sores from developing
These sores can cause discolouration or blistering, and can cause discomfort and, in serious cases, severe pain. They usually develop around the bony parts of the body such as the heels or hip, where there is little fleshy cushioning. There are a number of situations in which an individual is at greater risk of developing bed sores, beyond immobility, including:
Not every instance of pressure sores is the result of negligent treatment, but where someone has failed to care for the patient properly and in accordance with their legal responsibilities, they should be called to account for the pain and physical harm caused.
Thankfully, the law provides a route for individuals affected to bring pressure sore claims to recover compensation for pressure sores.
Someone who is fit and healthy, enjoys a balanced diet and moves around regularly is not generally at risk of pressure sores.
However, elderly or seriously injured patients who are less able to move freely often need the help of medical staff to change position. And if they’re not moved at regular intervals they’re at a very real risk of pressure sores.
Similarly, hospital and clinic in-patients who are confined to their beds because of illness, accident or for surgery are are at risk – as are those who are paralysed and immobile. Those who are confined to a wheelchair are particularly at risk of developing pressure sores on their buttocks and the tailbone (the coccyx).
Obesity and conditions such as incontinence can also result in reduced mobility, raising the risk of bedsores. If they are under community care, there may already be steps in place to minimise the risk, however it may be more challenging to prove pressure sore negligence if they are living in their own home.
Pressure sores can also be caused by the neglect of vulnerable people. For example, a disabled woman died from ‘extreme’ ulceration in Leicester whilst in the care of her father and brother who had an aversion to hospitals. In June 2022, they were found guilty of allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.
Thankfully, such cases are not common – most health professionals and carers take great care when looking after the health and dignity of their patients.
However, when things do go wrong and the individual is injured as a direct result of negligence or neglect, the law allows a route to making a pressure sore compensation claim.
If you or a loved one has suffered bedsores because of neglect, call for free on 0800 234 6438 about claiming compensation. Alternatively, you can complete the online contact form and request a call back to discuss the no win no fee pressure sore injury claim process.
If pressure sores are left untreated, they can lead to further potentially serious complications, such as:
The reality is that the majority of individuals who develop pressure sores are already vulnerable in some way, and may have a weakened immune system and / or underlying health problems.
If a bedsore remains untreated or is not properly treated, abscesses can form, pus may start to come from the wound, the individual’s heart rate may increase and their temperature starts to climb as their body fights the infection. Because of this, if pressure sores are not detected quickly and treated promptly, they can become dangerous and potentially fatal – particularly if blood poisoning develops.
To find out whether you could make a pressure sore compensation claim, get in touch with a trained legal adviser for free advice on 0800 234 6438. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have and can put you in touch with the specialist solicitors to handle your case.
Hospitals and clinical staff should remove the risk of patients developing pressure sores as far as they reasonably can. Steps they might need to consider making range from simply changing the patient’s position regularly to providing an ergonomic mattress that helps reduce the risk of a bed sore.
If you or a loved one has suffered from pressure sores because of a stay in hospital, it usually suggests some form of neglect has taken place. Pressure sores can develop quickly and medics are fully aware of this.
Unfortunately, hospitals are extremely busy and increasingly understaffed and we’re all keenly aware that doctors and nurses working for the NHS are under immense pressure. This means mistakes are more likely to happen.
However, it is still not acceptable when patients are injured and suffer harm in hospital through no fault of their own, and access to compensation for pressure sores is available via the medical negligence claims process.
DID YOU YOU?
Around 500,000 people in the UK will develop at least 1 pressure sore in a year
Medical negligence – sometimes called ‘clinical negligence’ – is an avoidable mistake or substandard care by a medical professional; and this directly causes an injury or makes an existing injury or condition worse.
The vast majority of doctors, clinical staff and other health professionals work to an extremely high standard, prioritising their patients’ needs – whatever the challenges. This is the case within the NHS; and also in private practice where more and more people than ever are turning to for their treatment.
However, though most doctors and medical staff are highly trained and provide an excellent level of care, mistakes do happen, shortcuts are taken – and the result can be painful and sometimes life-changing for the patient.
The fact is, pressure sores are a recognised and very well known risk for patients and are, in most cases, avoidable. This means that if you or a loved one has developed a pressure sore – however minor or serious it is – it probably should not have happened.
In such cases, the medical professionals should be held responsible – not only to you personally, but to minimise the risk of it happening to others.
To find out whether you could make a pressure sore negligence claim, you can speak to us for free no obligation consultation on 0800 234 6438, or submit your details using the claim form on this page.
A high standard is expected of doctors and other health professionals. They owe each patient a legal duty of care to act competently and professionally and to minimise any risk of harm to them.
To demonstrate that a doctor or other health professional acted negligently; or was negligent your medical negligence team must prove on balance that they failed to use their professional skills in the manner expected from a reasonably competent specialist in their field.
A particular challenge for health professionals and care home staff is that not every patient who start to develop a bed sore will be aware of it; and once they realise they’re in pain, it could already be quite advanced.
This makes it all the more critical that appropriate measure are implemented to prevent any bedsores developing in the first place.
Doctors and healthcare professionals have a legal duty of care to minimise the risk of harm to their patients – including removing the risk to a patient of developing pressure sores.
A key step for staff in any setting is to undertake risk assessments to assess the risk to the patient – and to act on the risks identified.
Healthcare professionals are expected to do all they reasonably can to prevent bedsores, such as ensuring patients are moved or ‘turned’ regularly; provided with a suitable bed or wheelchair and appropriate bedding; and physically examining the patient to check the condition of their skin.
Professionals and care teams should also regularly check patients and residents for initial signs of pressure sores, so that they can be treated early.
Failures to discharge this duty of care to patients can have serious consequences for patients – and the likelihood of pressure sore compensation claims being presented further down the line.
Similarly, care home staff should be trained to take appropriate steps to reduce the incidence of pressure sores.
Elderly residents who are bed bound should be turned over or repositioned at regular intervals; and residents in residential homes should not be left sitting in chairs for hours on end. It may be appropriate to provide specially designed beds and pressure relieving mattress that offers extra protection.
Once the individual has returned home, the duty of care does not end. If, for example, you’re returning home after surgery and you will remain immobile as you continue to recover – your aftercare may need to include arrangements for you to be assessed for the risk of pressure sores.
Neglecting these duties can lead to bed sores and pressure ulcers with the associated risk of added complications and a lengthier period of treatment. Where pressure sores develop, it’s a very strong indication of neglect and it’s reasonable for the injured individual to consider claiming compensation.
If you or a loved one feels aggrieved because pressure sores have developed as a result of negligence or neglect, it’s important to get in touch for early advice as to whether you can claim compensation for pressure sores.
In addition to their legal duties, doctors are also expected to follow the relevant guidelines. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) sets out how medical staff should assess which patients are at risk from developing pressure wounds and the steps they should take to prevent them from happening. The guidelines include:
In the case of pressure sores, claims for compensation can be made by proving that doctors or nursing staff were negligent in failing to take action to prevent bedsores from developing.
Your particular circumstances will be important to the issue of the standard of care and treatment you could have expected. The very existence of a pressure wound is strong evidence of negligence in any pressure sores claims.
In addition, failures to follow NICE guidance will be important evidence to help support your claim.
If you or a loved one has suffered from pressure sores due to a stay as an inpatient at a hospital or clinic and you believe your care was substandard, it’s very likely an expert solicitor will be able to help you make a pressure sores compensation claim.
The first step is to get in touch with a trained legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438.
We know that starting a claim can seem daunting – that’s why you’ll never be pressured into going ahead with your case. A specialist medical negligence solicitor will explain your legal position and the pressure sore claims process for seeking compensation.
Alternatively, you can request a call back here via our online contact form to discuss no win no fee claims for pressure sores.
A 70-year-old man who developed pressure sores when he was an inpatient at the Royal London Hospital, and then at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, was awarded £475,000 in compensation by the NHS.
If you were being treated under the NHS, your pressure sore claim will be made against the relevant NHS Trust. If you were receiving medical treatment privately it’ll be made against the owner of the practice (through their insurer).
If you are seeking compensation for a pressure sore injury caused in a care setting, your claim will be against the owner/operator of the home.
Many pressure sore claims involve private care home operators. However, you don’t need to worry about who you should be suing: once they have full information about what’s happened and under whose care, your solicitor will determine who your claim will be made against.
Simply call for specialist legal advice for free on 0800 234 6438 or request a call back here to discuss the process of making pressure sore negligence claims.
It’s not uncommon for elderly residents in care and residential homes to develop pressure sores. This is because older people age 70-plus are naturally more likely to be in the same position for extended periods of time.
That said, even in the case of elderly people pressure sores are usually avoidable where proper care is provided.
Old people’s homes are under more pressure than ever before with staff often paid low rates and under great pressure. Most residential care staff love their work and care deeply for their patients. But mistakes do happen and it’s understandable how elements of caring for the elderly get missed out.
However, mistakes are not acceptable if it leads directly to an injury. So if you or your loved one has developed a pressure sore while in a residential home, there’s every reason to consider making a claim for negligence.
The prospect of doing so can be daunting, particularly if you’re concerned about the financial impact on the residential home if your claim is successful. However, its owner will have liability insurance to cover the risk of personal injury claims.
This means any compensation following a successful negligence claim will be paid out by the insurer and not out of the home’s budget. This can be very reassuring if you’re worried about thinking about claiming compensation.
The most important step you can take is call for free initial advice on 0800 234 6438 to find out what action can be taken to claim pressure sore compensation.
A 94-year-old great-grandmother suffered pressure ulcers, including one which became septic and could not be treated, while in a Wolverhampton care home. Following her death, the care home admitted failings and paid the family a substantial out-of-court settlement
The amount of compensation you receive following a pressure wound depends on the grade of the ulcer, your recovery time and its impact on your health.
Your personal injury solicitors look at each case on an individual basis, to make sure you receive the full amount of compensation you deserve.
In a successful claim, you are entitled to ‘general’ damages to compensate you for the actual pressure sore and your pain and suffering; and ‘special damages’ if you’ve also suffered financial losses, such as further medical expenses if more treatment is needed.
How much compensation you may win will reflect the actual pressure ulcer injury you or your loved one has experienced.
Your pressure sore solicitor will look at your medical notes and talk you through how and when it developed and its impact on you.
They will also most likely need to arrange an expect medical examination to support your claim for bed sore compensation. The doctor will write a report based on the medical assessment; this will be important evidence for your claim.
However, you don’t need to worry about the cost of this as your solicitor will arrange it for you; and the cost will be covered under your no win no fee pressure sore compensation claims agreement
In some cases, your solicitor will need to consider compensation to cover both the primary injury (the pressure ulcer) and further complications, such as septicaemia or gangrene.
You can be reassured that your solicitor will work to ensure you receive maximum compensation to reflect the seriousness of your pressure ulcer.
Once your solicitor has gathered enough information about your claim, they’ll be able to provide an estimate of how much compensation you might expect to receive. When it comes to calculating a fair level of compensation in pressure sore claims, lawyers look at formal judicial guidelines to help them calculate what someone could be entitled to by way of compensation (The Judicial College Guidelines). For example:
You can also try our online compensation calculator here, but note that this gives a rough initial assessment of how much pressure sore compensation you could be entitled to.
If your pressure sores have cost you money in the form of lost earnings and medical expenses for further treatment, your pressure sore claim can include an amount to cover those financial losses. This is called special damages.
Your solicitor will ask you for details and any paperwork to support your special damages claim, so it’s helpful to gather receipts and invoices, and any payslips if you’ve had to have time off work to recover.
In most cases, you have three years from the date you realise you have developed a bed sore to start your case.
If you’re bringing a claim on behalf of a loved one who does not have the mental capacity to bring their own claim, eg because of dementia, you are not bound by the three-year time limit. Instead, the three years starts to run from the time your loved one regains their mental capacity (if at all).
However, it’s important to get in touch with a solicitor as soon as possible without too much delay. Pressure sore compensation claims are best started as soon as possible while the circumstances of the injury are fresh in your mind.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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