Preventing Pressure Sores In Hospital

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidelines explaining how pressures sores should be prevented and treated within a healthcare environment. If these recommendations are observed by medical professionals, the vast majority of patients should be protected against developing a pressure sore. On the other hand, the small number of patient for whom total prevention is not entirely feasible should be managed in order to effectively minimise the extent of injury.

Pressures sores (sometimes called bed sores, pressure ulcers or debucitus ulcers) occur when the skin is subject to pressure over a prolonged period of time. Take, for example, a hospital patient who is confined to their bed. Lying or sitting in the same position will compress certain areas of their body, particularly the bony prominences such as the heels, knees, hips, buttocks, elbows and shoulders. This will cut off the blood circulation to that part of the body, depriving it of oxygen and leading to the build-up of waste products. If this continues without adequate relief, the tissue will gradually break down, causing a pressure sore to develop. If no treatment is provided, the sore will deteriorate until there is an open wound.

Hospital patients are, therefore, especially prone to suffering pressure sores. Not only because many are unable to change position, but also because a large proportion of people in hospital are very ill, elderly, dehydrated, incontinent and have a poor diet - all of which will increase the likelihood of a pressure sore occurring.

Claiming For Hospital Acquired Pressure Sores

Because pressure sores are more of a threat of hospital patients, the NHS must now assess each patient within six hours of being admitted. This assessment should establish whether or not a patient is at risk of developing a pressure sore and, if so, how tissue damage is to be prevented. This should entail repositioning the patient regularly, providing pressure-relieving supports and assessing a patient's skin condition. If a sore does being to develop in spite of these measures, a treatment plan should be devised in order to reduce the amount of damage sustained.

However, if medical professionals fail to respect the NICE guidelines and a patient does acquire a pressure sore, there could be grounds for a medical negligence claim. This is because hospital staff should be aware of how to assess, prevent, detect and treat pressure sores. If there is a failure to do so, the hospital's healthcare team will not have provided an acceptable standard of care, thereby making them directly responsible for the patient's injury. This represents a serious breach of duty on the part of the hospital, and the injured patient will be legally entitled to claim compensation for the pain and suffering caused.

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