This is what happens when hospitals ignore pressure sores

Posted On:   07 January 2016

25th August, 2015 – London, U.K.: Pressure sores are an increasing problem for the NHS. In some cases they can be fatal, as was the case with Mrs Kathleen Hansell, now deceased, who was represented by her daughter as our client.

The First Admission

Kathleen was admitted to hospital with the symptoms of sickness. She had become very dehydrated and was unable to hold her food down. Due to this, she had lost a significant amount of weight. She already suffered from arthritis, which was to become a problem later on in her case. When she was admitted to hospital, she already had a small pressure sore on her buttock but had been treated and was nearly gone. 

Pressure sores, sometimes called bedsores or pressure ulcers, develop when large amounts of pressure are applied to an area of skin over a short period of time. Their severity can range from discoloured skin to open wounds that can be fatal, as we'll see. 

Upon admission, Kathleen was able to walk and had no pressure sores on her heels but this was soon to change due to the negligence of the hospital. Hospitals use the Waterlow Pressure Sore Prevention Score system to determine how bad a patient's pressure sores are and Kathleen's score was 31. This is extremely high and should have put the hospital on alert to move her and alleviate the pressure on her skin. 

On the first admission, Kathleen was given a special mattress but was told not to attempt to get out of bed because she was too weak. She wasn't able to move anyway due to her pre-existing arthritis. 

According to Kathleen, nurses attempted to move her on occasion but there were days where no attempts were made to mobilise her at all. 

Kathleen discharged herself whilst she still had the pressure sore on her buttock but the following day, a visit from a district nurse found another sore on her heel and toe. Kathleen strongly believed that the deterioration of her sores happened in her time as an in-patient.

More Problems with Pressure Sores

On her second admission into hospital, the sore on Kathleen's buttock has worsened and become a hole and another sore had developed on her other heel.  What began as a grade 1 sore had now worsened to a grade 3 sore. The wound on her buttock was treated but her heels were not. Although Kathleen was again given a special mattress, her heels were left on the sheets where they began to leak on the sheets. Only then were they treated by nurses after Kathleen raised the issue with them. By this time, the sores had turned black and were quite large.

Again, she was left for a significant amount of time in one position and was treated on her back, putting more pressure on the sore on her buttock, which had then developed into a grade 4 sore. 

Kathleen was discharged again but had extreme difficulty walking due to the sores on her heels, which had worsened and become extremely painful. She wasn't sent home with any equipment to make her discharge easier, something that should have happened. 

Unfortunately, Kathleen was re-admitted to hospital again due to a severe bladder infection and it was Kathleen's daughter who was taking dressings to the hospital, as they did not provide her with any.

It was at this point that Kathleen approached us at Simpson Millar LLP, and Sarah Holdsworth took on her case. We sent a letter to the hospital pointing out their failures on all the occasions Kathleen was admitted into hospital, concentrating on the pressure sores. 

Kathleen's Daughter Takes on the Claim

Sadly, Kathleen's condition never improved and she continued to suffer, was not able to walk and passed away after contracting septicaemia. After this, her daughter took over the case so her mother's claim could continue and the hospital would still be held to account. 

Sarah worked tirelessly to prove that it was the pressure sores were the material contribution to the death of Kathleen. Due to this, we included losses associated with her death including a bereavement award and funeral expenses into the compensation claim. 

Sarah was able to settle the claim out of court for a compensation amount of £40,000 which was inclusive of Kathleen's pain and suffering, past travel costs and other miscellaneous expenses such as bed sheets, nightwear and pads. 

Although the compensation will never replace the loss of her mother, Kathleen's daughter was able to put her mother to rest and her father received a bereavement award. 
Cases like this just show the problems that elderly people can face when they're admitted into hospital and why hospitals need to be more vigilant when caring for them.