Bed Sores in Hospitals cost NHS £4BN per year and claim nearly as many lives as MRSA

The statistics were drawn up by NHS standards watchdog Dr Foster after a survey of 150 hospitals.

Bedsores hit 412,000 NHS patients a year and the latest figures show they killed 4,708 people between 2003 and 2008 close to the MRSA death-toll.

The worst hospitals names and shamed in the report are shown below:

1. Warrington and Halton Hospital Trust, Cheshire

2. Medway Trust, Kent

3. Southend University Hospital Trust, Essex

4. Royal Bolton Hospital, Greater Manchester

5. West Herts Trust

6. Luton and Dunstable Hospital Trust

7. West Suffolk Hospitals Trust

8. Northern Devon Healthcare Trust

9. George Eliot Hospital Trust, Warwickshire

10. Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

The worst hospitals were found to have 4 times the national average of bed sores.

Bed sores aka pressure ulcers typically occur when elderly or immobile hospitalised patients are not regularly turned or given special mattresses – typically alternating air flow mattresses. Health chiefs have warned that the cost of treating the sufferers is consuming 4% of the entire NHS budget.

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Pressure Sores Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is a Pressure Sore?

Pressure sores, also know as bed sores, pressure ulcers & decubitus ulcers, are lesions (damaged tissue in this case) caused typically caused by Ischemia (restricted blood circulation), leading to tissue damage and cell death. They are typically graded I to IV with grade IV being the most severe, extending into muscles, tendons and sometimes bone.

What Causes Pressure Sores?

We typically think of pressure sores being the results of unrelieved pressure when someone sits or lies in one position for too long, sores are generally accepted to be the result of 3 tissue forces :

  • pressure
  • shear
  • friction

In addition, other factors may also play a part such as:

  • humidity
  • dehydration
  • hygiene
  • age & condition of patient
  • continence
  • medication

Who Is At Risk?

Healthy, mobile people do not develop pressure ulcers as they are constantly moving and changing posture. However, immobile people or those suffering from health problems and / or restricted mobility making it difficult to move, are at risk of developing pressure sores.


Florence Nightingale, in her ‘Notes on Nursing’, first published in 1859 stated: “If a patient is cold, if a patient is feverish, if a patient is faint, if he is sick after taking food, if he has a bed-sore, it is generally the fault not of the disease, but of the nursing.”  Regular turning or moving of immobile patients (at a minimum of every 2 hours for people confined to bed, but higher for wheelchair users) was recommended as a way of preventing pressure sores developing. Equipment, such as air mattresses and dynamic lying surfaces are commonly used to prevent sores developing.

Good nutrition, sometimes supplemented with vitamin C & Zinc, and good hygiene all help prevent pressure sores developing.

How Do Alternating Air Mattresses Help Prevent the Risk of Pressure Sores Developing?

Alternating Air Mattresses consist of multiple cells which automatically inflate / deflate periodically by an air pump in order to vary the pressure where the persons skin is in contact.

Air Mattress Showing Alternate Cell Construction

Air Mattress Showing Alternate Cell Construction



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