Pressure Sores – A hidden epidemic

Pressure sores are a widespread and often under estimated health problem in the UK.  Whilst they can be treated, if caught early enough, there is plenty that can be done to prevent them developing in the first place.

An estimated half a million people in the UK develop pressure sores each year.  More than 27,000 people died with pressure sores or infected wounds in 2010 and around 1 in 20 people who are admitted to hospital with an illness will develop a pressure sore; most of us will know at least one family member or friend who has suffered from this painful condition which in the worst cases can even be life threatening.

Pressure sores, also known as bed sores or ulcers, are wounds that develop from constant pressure or friction on one area of the body which damages the skin.  Constant pressure on an areas of skin prevents blood flowing normally, so the cells die and the skin breaks down.  Usually, we are not at risk of developing sores as we move around constantly, even in our sleep, and this stops pressure sores developing.  However, if you are ill, bed ridden, or in a wheelchair, you are at risk of developing pressure sores.

When people talk of pressure sores, we often think of a small sore spot, on the skin but this is a common misconception.  Pressure sores can inflict terrible pain and rob thousands of patients of their mobility and independence and, in the worst cases, even lead to the patient’s death.  However, what is perhaps most alarming is that most of the time, particularly for patients in hospitals, or nursing homes, pressure sores are entirely preventable.

There are four grades of pressure sores:-

  • Grade 1 is classed as a reddening or bruising of the skin.
  • Grade 2 is classed as broken skin or shallow ulceration.
  • Grade 3 is classed as a large or deep ulceration.
  • Grade 4 pressure sores are so deep that in many cases the skin and muscle has completely worn away, revealing bone and sometimes internal organs.

The most severe pressure sores are very difficult to heal and can lead to fatal infection or life threatening complications such as gangrene or blood poisoning.

The majority of pressure sores, however, are avoidable through good, basic nursing care and it is simply unacceptable that pressure sores are being allowed to develop, which is usually a sign of negligent care.  When in hospital, it is the hospital’s responsibility to ensure that every patient is assessed to determine their risk of developing pressure sores and receives the proper care to prevent the condition occurring.  If they do not assess the risk of pressure sore properly and the patient goes on to develop pressure sores whilst in their care, the patient may have a claim for compensation.

We regularly recover damages for people who have suffered pressure sores and recently Elizabeth Smith has recovered damages of £50,000 each for two wheelchair dependent patients, admitted to hospital who sustained Grade 3 and Grade 4 pressure sores, whilst patients.

If you or a member of your family have suffered an injury as a result of medical negligence and you would like to receive some free initial legal advice, without obligation, please contact Ann Ball on 01752 292374 or at

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