Investigation Reveals West Midlands Has Worst Record In The Country For Pressure Sores Victims

Medical Law Expert Calls For Increased Training To Help Recognise At Risk Patients

28.01.2013

Medical law experts as Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office are calling for increased training for hospital staff in how to recognise patients at risk of bed sores after it was revealed the West Midlands has the worst record in the country.

A BBC Inside Out programme, broadcast this week, revealed that 42% of serious incidents reported at hospitals in England involve bed sores and the West Midlands has the worst record in the country with one of its trusts - the Dudley Group - reporting that two thirds of its 307 incidents related to bed sores.

Bed sores, or pressure sores as they are also known, happen when constant pressure, such as being laid in the same position for prolonged periods, restricts blood supply to the skin.

They are open wounds that can lead to serious complications such as infection and blood poisoning, which can be fatal.

Research shows - and the NHS has accepted - that 95% of bed sores can be avoided through regular assessment and turning patients when necessary.

Kim Andrews, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in helping people who have fallen victim to bed sores, said: “Bed sores are almost always preventable, so prevention is absolutely key.

“They can be particularly difficult to treat in elderly patients and there are potentially serious complications such as infection, because the sore is basically an open wound.

“The results of the BBC inquiry show the focus needs to be on training staff to recognise patients who are at particular risk, for example due to immobility, incontinence or malnutrition, so that a prevention plan such as a turning regime can be implemented on arrival in hospital.

“Ward staff must also be trained to recognise the earliest signs of pressure sores so that they can be addressed without delay and, hopefully, before the skin is broken.  There needs to be a clear and efficient pathway for staff to follow to facilitate the immediate involvement of the tissue viability team and sufficient numbers of vital pressure-reducing equipment like special air mattresses must be available at all times.

“The ability to identify patients who are at risk of developing pressure sores is a basic nursing skill, but sadly we are still seeing a disturbing number of cases where patients have been allowed to develop severe bed sores in hospital.

“I hope that having recognised the high number of bed sores occurring on their watch, The Dudley Group will ensure that pressure sore prevention is a top priority for their nurses from now on. If this means retraining staff and implementing new policies and pathways, then that is what needs to happen.”