By Simon Wilson, medical negligence expert and senior solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors
AS specialists in handling cases of medical negligence, our work centres around supporting clients who have suffered injuries and illnesses which could have been avoided had they simply received a good standard of care.
Everyone accepts mistakes can never be eradicated completely, in all walks of life.
Although surgeons, doctors, nurses and all other health workers are highly-trained and dedicated people, they are also human, and nobody is completely infallible.
That is why we at Neil Hudgell Solicitors place our focus on questioning errors which could and should have been avoided with due care – avoidable mistakes which ultimately cause unnecessary suffering.
We believe there is a key role to be played in ensuring such mistakes are not simply swept under the carpet, but that vital lessons are also learned and new policies and procedures are introduced and followed to improve future care.
With that in mind, it is great to see the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) continuing to campaign hard for a consistent standard of care to be achieved across the UK to avoid people suffering from needless pressure ulcers.
Having launched the campaign in the summer, including a five-point plan to tackle the issue nationally, APIL is now seeking political support, having contacted local NHS Trusts and NHS Improving Quality, as well as many MPs and the All Party Parliamentary Group, to increase the focus on this important issue.
Quite simply, the statistics to justify this campaign speak for themselves.
Research shows that 95 per cent of pressure ulcers are avoidable if treated appropriately – usually by assessing a patient’s vulnerability to pressure sores on admission and then by simply providing an appropriate mattress, making sure they move and, if necessary, are turned.
Early identification and treatment is key, because if conditions are allowed to worsen, untreated skin and tissue can start to break down and lead to an infection.
Allowing an ulcer to escalate to a level where you can see the bone is almost always inexcusable, but unfortunately, latest statistics show that many Trusts are recording high levels of pressure sores developing to this level.
Indeed, at one particular Trust, more than half of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers deteriorated to levels where body fat, tendons, muscle or bone were visible.
Given that treating pressure ulcers and related conditions is now estimated to cost up to around £4 billion a year, with the most severe cases ranging from £11,000 to £40,000 per person, significant action is certainly needed.
Every hospital bed taken up by a patient who has developed severe pressure sores is a bed not being made available to an increasing number of people who find themselves on waiting lists for much-needed treatment.
We will continue to back APIL in making this issue a priority.
It is evidence of the health service performing poorly, in many areas of the country, by simply failing to meet a minimum standard of care. That is simply unacceptable and must not be allowed to go on.