I have just read yet another report on an elderly lady who developed devastating pressure ulcers during admissions to Kings College Hospital and I have a sense of déjà-vu.
When this woman was admitted she had no ulcers. By the time of her discharge she had 10. Pressure sores are Graded 1-4. Some of these were Grade 4 – the worse. They caused her an enormous amount of pain, led to infection and resulting in her losing her limited independence at home. She died in a nursing home a few weeks after her discharge.
The only legal remedy is an award of damages and I am very confident of succeeding in the claim. But damages seems a poor recompense for such a degree of pain, loss of independence and a miserable end to life.
To recover damages I will have to show that breaches of the hospital’s legal duty to this vulnerable woman caused the pressures sores. I doubt that I will have difficulty. My report – from an experienced nurse – highlights failures from the first day of admission. There were failures to assess the condition of her skin, to provide a pressure-relieving mattress, to ensure that she was turned regularly and to involve a specialist Tissue Viability Nurse once the sores developed.
The woman was also allowed to become malnourished whilst in hospital and this would have made her skin more vulnerable. All these failures were completely avoidable. Given proper nursing care none of them would have happened.
Claiming damages for the victims of pressure ulcers is probably not the most glamorous part of my job. But I regard it as extremely important and assisting victims and their families gives a lot of satisfaction. It is so easy for elderly and vulnerable people to be neglected even in the best hospitals and fighting these cases in one way of standing up for the rights of some of the most vulnerable. In the meantime although I have a sense of déjà-vu in reading this report I doubt it will be the last time.
Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.