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Compensation Recovered for Impact of Avoidable Pressure Ulcer Sores

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We pursued a claim on behalf of a family when their relative suffered deteriorating health after a catalogue of errors in her hospital care.  The relative had sadly died, but the family made a claim against the hospital and secured £34,000 compensation.

Mrs J was admitted to Selly Oak Hospital in January 2010 complaining of right leg pain following a fall a few days earlier. She was assessed and x-rays revealed no bone fracture. Following a further review, including a mobility assessment, she was transferred to West Heath Hospital for rehabilitation, with a view to improving her mobility before she went home.

On admission to West Heath Hospital Mrs J underwent nursing and clinical assessments including a Waterlow pressure ulcer risk assessment. The resultant score suggested she was not at risk of pressure ulcers. No account was taken of her lower limbs being dry and oedematous, her restricted mobility arising from her fall or to reflect that she was taking cytotoxic medication to treat a urinary tract infection. The only step planned was to carry out a 12-hourly skin inspection, which medical records subsequently revealed were not carried out for at least ten days.

During her time at West Heath Hospital Mrs J was continually reassessed by the nursing and clinical staff. It was noted that her mobility was decreasing, she had markers of infection, and she had developed sores on her ankles and calves. The Defendant asserted that two days after admission a further Waterlow assessment was carried out which placed Mrs J at very high risk of developing pressure sores. Despite this, no action was taken to reduce the perceived pressure ulcer risk in any way.

The hospital breached its own policy of reassessing pressure ulcer risks on a weekly basis by failing to carry out another Waterlow assessment for a further fifteen days. A further Waterlow assessment was completed on the seventeenth day post-admission, but this significantly underestimated Mrs J’s condition in light of her clinical circumstances. Some steps were finally taken to alleviate the sores, but a planned referral to a tissue viability nurse was not actioned for a further four days, and no referral was made to a dietician. A turning regime was planned on a regular two-hourly basis but not commenced for a further two days, and once started was intermittent at best.

During this period Mrs J’s condition deteriorated even further. Her existing pressure ulcers intensified and she developed new sores on her legs and lower back which caused infection, immobility, loss of appetite and significant weight loss all of which ultimately led to sepsis, acute renal failure pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.

Mrs J remained seriously ill when she was transferred back to Selly Oak Hospital in March 2010. On admission Mrs J was noted to have substantial pressure sores on her lower back, right calf, heels, left foot, and right shin which required surgical debridement and washout. This procedure caused Mrs J to develop acute pulmonary oedema and required admission to the Critical Care Unit. Thankfully she recovered from the procedure and was cared for on the Elderly Care Ward until she was transferred to the Sheldon Unit for rehabilitation in June 2010.

Sadly Mrs J died in August 2011 having never recovered from the pressure sores that she developed at West Heath Hospital.

Pearson Solicitors investigated these events and obtained expert evidence from a physician and geriatrician, a nurse and a plastic surgeon. A claim was issued against The Department of Health which led to a settlement being reached in the sum of £34,000.

Kenneth Lees, Medical Negligence Solicitor, who handled the case said:This is an extremely sad case where an independent and mobile lady developed painful pressure ulcers and deteriorating health as a result of a catalogue of errors in her hospital care.

“Mrs J’s family took issue with the inadequate treatment that she received and raised a number of complaints with West Heath Hospital on her behalf. Whilst monetary compensation cannot make up for the experiences faced by Mrs J and her family I believe that the financial settlement that we have secured will prompt a review of pressure sore management policies”.

For advice on your medical negligence compensation claim call 0161 785 3500, or email

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

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