Its bad enough being ill, but if you also have the misfortune to develop a pressure ulcer (or bed sores as they used to be known) through lack of nursing care, it can be a nightmare.
Let’s be clear about this – this isn't just personal injury lawyers generalising about hospitals getting it wrong again. Some hospital trusts have excellent practises, putting the others to shame. We have identified 15 Trusts that see thousands and thousands of patients (one of them alone sees nearly 75,000 patients) that have managed zero instances of critical pressure ulcers.
Pressure ulcers are painful, but fortunately up to 95 percent are preventable with good care. However, not all hospital Trusts have such an impressive record. Some are shocking, with over 50 per cent of pressure ulcers becoming critical. Why is the standard of care so variable?
A critical pressure ulcer is one that has deteriorated to such a level that the skin loses its viability - you can see body fat, muscle, bones and tendons. These are seriously painful and difficult to heal, taking considerable time, and impacting on people’s lives often rendering them unable to return to work, or needing daily support.
Pressure ulcers cost far more to treat than to prevent. They are estimated to cost a staggering £2 billion pounds a year. Hospital stays are extended, taking up much needed beds. Prevention is always better (and much cheaper) than the cure.
It’s a postcode lottery – take a look at the map here. I live in the countryside, pretty much equidistant between Burton and Leicester. Having seen the league tables, heading to Burton is the most sensible option for me. Given a choice, I might head down to the M42 to Birmingham, where the instance of serious pressure sores is zero, indicating good standards of care.
With something so simple to prevent, patients should be guaranteed good care. APIL proposes a simple five point plan to improve the situation for every patient at risk. This includes mandatory training of staff,and making sure that anyone at risk of a pressure ulcer has an allocated individual to provide appropriate care. National data collection and analysis would quickly highlight areas for improvement. It’s not rocket science, but it would make a huge difference. It shouldn't be a lottery.