Substandard Care Causes Pressure Sore That Leaves Man Bed-Bound

Substandard Care Causes Pressure Sore That Leaves Man Bed-Bound

Clinical Negligence Solicitor Andrew Bowman has helped his client, David Palfrey, to make a claim for the substandard care that he received whilst at Torbay Hospital in 2011. The care was so poor that David developed a serious pressure sore, leaving him bed-bound for around two years.

David Palfrey was left paralysed below the waist due to previous medical negligence involved following a motorbike accident in the 1980s. Despite this, he enjoyed an active and independent life with his wife, Mavis, who provided some care to her husband.

David and his wife were both aware that, as a paraplegic, David is at an increased risk of developing pressure sores, so both took precautions to avoid them. In over 20 years, David never experienced a pressure sore.


On 28 April 2011, David was admitted to Torbay Hospital to investigate problems he was having in relation to a heart condition he had been diagnosed with the year before. Due to his paralysis, he was placed on a pressure relieving mattress in the hospital, in order to try to prevent pressure sores.

Whilst in hospital, the ward was struck by a stomach bug and the ward was closed, so his wife was not able to visit and help to provide the care that he needed. David recalls that the nursing staff seemed very busy with lots of sick patients having severe diarrhoea, including David himself. During this period, David found himself messing the bed, and was often left in the dirty bed for long periods of time.

Negligence In Care

The pressure relieving mattress made it hard for David to manoeuvre himself and he doesn’t recall the staff ever repositioning him, other than when changing his bedding and sitting him up for meals. Matters were made worse when on 4th May, his mattress started to deflate. An alarm went off indicating that there was a fault with the mattress but the nurse on duty merely turned the alarm off.

Despite a number of bedding changes the staff did not notice that the bed was deflating. David alerted the staff but he was still left on the deflating matters for some time. The mattress was so flat that the metal frame was pressing into him.

Staff tried re-setting the mattress several times without success, but David believes that they did not understand how the mattress worked. Eventually David was moved to an ordinary bed, but again, was not repositioned through the night. The following day the hospital staff managed to replace the pressure relieving mattress and he remained on this until his discharge on 6 May 2011.

Development Of Problems

Once home, David immediately noticed that the skin on his buttock did not feel right. His wife noticed that it was white and was leaking fluid when pressed. A district nurse visited a few days later who advised that it was pressure sore. The sore got worse and left a hole about 2 inches deep in his buttock.

David was referred to a plastic surgeon but was told that surgery would not work because he would not heal well due to his paraplegia. He then underwent Vacuum Assisted Closure Therapy for 12 months, to assist the healing, and his sore remained unhealed for over 2 years.

As a result of having this open wound, David contracted several infections of the wound and has remained on antibiotics since he left Torbay Hospital. Due to the position of the sore, David was bed-bound and unable to use his wheel chair as he could not sit down. He has had to remain lying down so cannot go out and enjoy shopping, cooking and days out with his wife, as he used to. He had booked a cruise to Hawaii but had to cancel it as he knew he would not be able to travel.

Vulnerable To Further Injury

Over two years later, David’s pressure sore has almost healed and he is now able to get out of bed and into his wheelchair for a few hours per day several days per week. However, it is likely that his sore may take much longer to heal further, and he is now extremely vulnerable to suffering further damage to this area, particularly when transferring into his wheelchair. He has also suffered injury to his shoulder due to the prolonged period of bed rest resting on it which has made matters worse as this makes it more difficult to transfer into his wheelchair, which he used to do independently.

All this has left David very depressed. What is more upsetting for David is that he has required surgery for his heart condition but he has been unable to undergo this because of the open would. He also has great concerns for the future, as once the wound does finally heal, he will have a lot scar tissue which will affect how long he can sit for.

Interim Payments Received

Andrew Bowman from Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office represented David and helped gather evidence to prove that Torbay Hospital had been negligent and caused his pressure sore. A safeguarding strategy meeting at South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust agreed that it was most likely the sore developed when the mattress deflated. David also strongly believes that the staff’s failure to reposition him regularly and leaving him in a dirty bed for long periods of time also contributed.

Although this case is still ongoing, the NHS Trust has admitted liability and Andrew has therefore been able to get £10,000 for David as an interim payment until the case settles. This payment is intended for David to put a rehabilitation and care regime in place to help his recovery and enable him to regain some of the quality of life he enjoyed before.

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