£25,000 has been awarded in compensation to the family of an 83 year-old woman, after she tragically died from blood poisoning caused by her untreated and ‘rotting’ bedsores.
In 2005, Hazel Fryers was diagnosed with dementia and was cared for at home by her son. She was admitted to Great Western Hospital in 2008 following a fall where she sustained a fractured hip which required a hip replacement. Following her discharge, it was agreed that she was to be cared for in Princess Lodge Care Centre, a residential nursing home.
Mrs Fryers had restricted mobility and needed help with eating and drinking, as well as suffering from incontinence. As she was unable to communicate her needs, all her care was delivered by nursing staff at the home. She was assessed as being at a high risk of developing pressure sores and therefore would need to be checked by staff every two hours to make sure she was comfortable and to reduce the risk of skin damage.
Mrs Fryers had regular assessments of her skin and in October 2009, it was noted that she had a pressure sore on her left buttock, right hip and her skin was visibly red and peeling on her buttocks. By November, her hip had started to swell and therefore was seen by a doctor who referred her case to a Tissue Viability Nurse.
The nurse recorded that Mrs Fryers had ulcers on her right and left hip and noticed that the pressure of the mattress was set at the wrong level for her needs. She advised that as a result of this setting, Mrs Fryers was lying on a mattress equivalent to a very hard surface.
As a result of her findings, the specialist nurse created a care plan for staff at the nursing home to follow in terms of the type and frequency of wound dressing changes and her airflow mattress was regulated to a suitable level. Although nursing staff advised that they created a care plan for her pressure ulcer, no evidence of this was found when the specialist nurse returned to visit Mrs Fryers.
In December 2009, Mrs Fryers was examined by a doctor when swelling was noticed on her left hip, where a swab was taken from the wound and antibiotics were prescribed.
Mrs Fryers' health and pressure sores deteriorated over the following month and although it was noted that the wound was not healing well, there was no evidence that a referral was made to see the specialist nurse despite a recommendation being made.
Negligence In Care
By the middle of January 2010, her sores and level of consciousness had worsened. She had difficulty swallowing fluids, had a very high temperature and her wounds were infected. On the 22nd of January 2010, Mrs Fryers sadly passed away.
In her post mortem, if was noted that she died of Sepsis due to bed sores and that the delay in treatment when the bedsores were first noted may have affected the outcome. The air mattress which was set to the incorrect pressure could have also contributed to the sores occurring at all, or their severity.
Mrs Fryers level of care fell below a reasonable standard and repeated errors were noted in her treatment. She was not repositioned at all during some nights and there was no evidence of nursing staff repositioning Mrs Fryers as they should have done when she was sat in her chair during the day.
She also lacked suitable nutrition to help her recover from the pressure sores and lost a significant amount of weight whilst at the care home. With Mrs Fryers also suffering from dementia, she was at an increased risk of pressure damage. No care plan was put in place to monitor her behavioural patterns, which was a serious breach of duty of care.
'Highly Preventable' Case
All findings showed a lack of care planning into the prevention of ulcers occurring and also poor management of treating the ulcers and pain control once they had been identified. This unacceptable level of care for Mrs Fryers resulted in her being in unnecessary and preventable pain.
The coroner on this case described these tragic circumstances as ‘highly preventable’ during the inquest in July 2010.
Andrew Bowman, specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office representing Mrs Fryers’ family, said: "This is a terrible case that saw an old lady die in an undignified and painful way when she was at her most vulnerable.
"What makes it worse is that our investigations and the coroner found evidence that staff at the home and the specialist nurse from the Trust could have done more to prevent and treat Hazel’s pressure sores, and despite this evidence, both have refused to admit any responsibility for Hazel’s death which has resulted in a long and unnecessary battle for justice for her devastated family, which we find appalling."
Compensation Secured For Family Members
Irwin Mitchell secured £25,000 in compensation for the pain and suffering that Mrs Fryers and her family went through. Swindon Primary Care Trust’s have refused to admit responsibility or apologise for the preventable suffering and poor care Mrs Fryers experienced, which ultimately led to her sad death.
Andrew Bowman at Irwin Mitchell added: "Sadly we continue to be contacted by distraught families who are desperate for answers about the loss of a loved one caused by pressure sores – an injury completely preventable.
"No amount of money can make up for this loss and we believe Hazel’s family are owed an apology for what happened as until then, it will be incredibly hard for them to move forward with their lives."
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