There are an estimated 180,000 newly acquired pressure ulcers developing each year in the NHS (NHS Safety Thermometer 2012) and in 2011 the National Reporting and Learning System received 91,810 pressure ulcer related patient safety incident reports, making pressure ulcer prevention one of the biggest patient safety challenges facing the NHS. (ref Patient Safety First)

Evidence indicates that the majority of pressure ulcers are preventable and could be avoided through simple actions. As well as causing long term pain and distress for patients, treatment is estimated to cost the NHS between £1.4 and £2.1 billion per year (Bennett et al). There is a good strong evidence base on how to prevent pressure ulcers from developing, the majority of which is simple to understand and easy to do.

Family members who are looking after elderly relatives at home should be encouraged to learn about pressure ulcers and how they develop.  By knowing about the various things that will put someone at risk you will be in a far better position to be able to help prevent a pressure ulcer from occurring.


Pressure ulcers can be life threatening.  Make sure that you React to Red Skin and help to prevent a person you care about getting a pressure ulcer.


What is a pressure ulcer?

A pressure ulcer (sometimes called a bed sore or pressure sore) is when your skin and underlying tissue gets damaged by unrelieved pressure causing a painful sore.


Are you or someone you know at risk of developing a pressure ulcer?

There are many different things that can put someone more at risk of developing a pressure ulcer:

- immobility

- reduced sensitivity to pain or pressure (can be due to medical condition or nerve damage)

- poor circulation

- old age (over 65 qualifies here)

- poor diet

- incontinence problems

- end of life care

All of these areas will increase the risk of developing a pressure ulcer so its very important that someone who is providing care for an individual who is at risk is aware of what they can do to reduce that risk.


 Quick test - how at risk are you?


If you answer yes to 3 or more, you MAY be at risk. For a complete test refer to http://www.judy-waterlow.co.uk/ or consult a health care professional.

Where do pressure ulcers develop?

Pressure ulcers tend to develop over bony parts of the body that are normally in constant contact with a surface.  Below is a diagram of the areas of the body that are most at risk.

locations of pressure damage.png

 However, please be aware of medical devises that can cause damage - catheter tubes, oxygen masks, anti-embolism stockings, glasses and hearing aids.  If any of these are on the skin for a prolonged period of time, particularly if somebody falls asleep with the devise trapped against the skin, they can cause damage over parts of the body that would not normally considered to be at risk.