Hundreds of patients with appalling bedsore injuries win fight for justice

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Hundreds of patients with appalling bedsore injuries win fight for justice

More than 700 patients who developed avoidable bedsores due to poor hospital care won their battle for justice from 2003 to 2013, receiving £16.34 million in compensation to help them to cope with their appalling injuries. 

Over two-thirds of this (£11.5 million) was paid to bedsores victims between 2008 and 2013, according to statistics from the NHS Litigation Authority. 

The official figures show that the number of patients who were compensated after suffering bedsores, which are largely caused by poor basic care, almost doubled in the financial year 2012/13 compared when compared to the number in 2008/09. 

In the financial year 2008/09 56 bedsores cases were settled. However this rose to 92 cases settled in 2009/10, 106 in 2010/11, 113 in 2011/12 and 111 in the financial year 2012/13. However from 2003/04 to 2008/09 the number of bedsores cases that were won only increased by six. 

The total number of cases that have been settled in the last 10 years is 706. 

The average compensation settlement paid to hospital bedsores victims, who are often left with significant care needs, in severe pain and with loss of dignity, was £25,000 in the last five years. The highest single compensation settlement paid was £350,000. 

Steven Brown, a specialist solicitor in the medical negligence team at law firm JMW, is currently representing the families of several patients left with horrendous injuries due to preventable bedsores.

“The patients we are representing have suffered terribly due to bedsores, which have taken an enormous toll on their health and left them completely debilitated.

"Simple steps and basic care could have avoided this, which is incredibly frustrating for families. Trying to change the situation for other vulnerable patients is often what drives them to take legal action.” 

Former mayor says husband lost dignity due to horrendous bedsores  

Jonathan Jackson was 70 when he developed severe bedsores while he was an inpatient at Worthing Hospital, West Sussex.

A wheelchair user with type 1 diabetes and a high BMI, Jonathan was at very high risk of developing bedsores, yet despite this, a risk assessment did not take these factors into consideration. Nurses also failed to take adequate measures to prevent bedsores and he was sometimes left in his chair for 10 hours at a time without being moved. 

Steven Brown is helping Jonathan’s wife Rosemary to challenge the appalling care that she says Jonathan received at Worthing Hospital that led to his bedsores.

He commented: “Bedsores are a horrific, yet largely avoidable, injury for any hospital patient to suffer. However despite this, adequate risk assessments are not always done and preventative measures, such as simple repositioning, are not always taken as often as they should. 

“When a patient is clearly at very high risk of developing pressure sores it is very worrying when there is a failure to recognise this and provide the basic care that could prevent them from occurring.

“In Jonathan’s case, his reliance on a wheelchair, type 1 diabetes and BMI of more than 30 put him at ‘very high risk’ however sadly nurses did not categorise him as such when undertaking the risk assessment. 

“A care plan was not immediately put in place and crucially nurses failed to ensure he was consistently repositioned every four hours. This meant there were times he was left in his wheelchair for 10 hours without being moved, which is completely unacceptable.”

A Cambridge graduate, Jonathan was involved in an accident in Arundel, West Sussex on 20th August 2011 while he and Rosemary (71), a former Mayor of Littlehampton, were travelling to visit friends in Guernsey. 

After suffering polio as a child Jonathan was wheelchair-dependent and was travelling in the back of a mobility van on the day of the accident. However, he was thrown out of his chair when the driver of the van had to stop suddenly. 

Jonathan was in pain on the first night of their holiday in Guernsey and the next day Rosemary took him to a hospital in Guernsey, where he was found to have fractures in both his tibias and ankles. Jonathan spent several days in the hospital in Guernsey, where Rosemary says the care provided was excellent, before being taken by air ambulance to Worthing Hospital. 

Jonathan spent several weeks in Worthing Hospital where Rosemary says he received an appalling standard of care. 

On 30 August several bedsores were identified on Jonathan’s back and sacral area. By 3rd September they were found to be Grade 2. Shockingly, Rosemary was not told about the bedsores.

On 15th September Jonathan was transferred to the Zachery Merton Community Hospital in Littlehampton where staff became aware of the bedsores and informed Rosemary, by which time at least one was Grade 4, much to Rosemary’s utter shock. Nurses at Zachery Merton were so concerned about the sores that they referred Jonathan’s case to the local authority's adult safeguarding team for investigation. 

Jonathan spent several weeks in Zachery Merton Community Hospital, where Rosemary says he was cared for very well. After he was discharged district nurses continued to dress the sores in his home and Rosemary cared for him day and night. 

Jonathan was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital on 24 November as one of his legs had turned blue due to a problem with the blood supply. Jonathan and Rosemary were then given the news that his legs would need to be amputated.

On 28th November Jonathan underwent the amputation of one of his legs below the knee at Royal Sussex. On 19th December he was discharged and advised that a follow-up would be arranged to discuss the amputation of the second leg when he was feeling stronger. 

However, Jonathan tragically died of a heart attack on 29th December when he was 70 years old. 

Rosemary commented: “It was horrendous. He went through what nobody should have to go through. He lost all sense of dignity and as he was a very proud man it was terrible to see. 

“Although he was in a wheelchair he was very independent. We would go out for days and enjoy a very nice existence. We had never even had a sign of a bedsore. 

“The bedsores took an enormous toll on him and I just felt helpless. Jonathan got very depressed and low and I am not sure how much that contributed to his decline and eventual death.” 

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