What is the Waterlow Score?

If you are bed-bound as a result of an injury or illness, medical staff may apply the Waterlow Score to assess the risk of you developing a pressure sore. A failure to follow the protocol for bed-bound patients can constitute medical negligence.

Intended for use by medical professionals, the Waterlow Score is a simple risk assessment tool that determines whether a patient is at risk of developing a bedsore. It is widely used in accident and emergency departments, hospital wards and residential nursing homes across the UK.

Waterlow risk assessment scoring system

The Waterlow Scorecard is an assessment of the seven risk factors known to contribute towards the development of pressure ulcers, including:

  • the patient's body mass index
  • their sex and age
  • their level of continence
  • their skin condition (healthy or broken)
  • the patient's appetite
  • their level of mobility (fully mobile to bed-bound)
  • special risk factors, including medication, surgery and trauma

The patient is allocated a score against each of these criteria. The total score, in conjunction with the nursing staff's clinical expertise, places the patient into one of three risk categories:

  • a score of 10-14 indicates "at risk"
  • a score of 15-19 indicates "high risk", and
  • a score of 20 and above indicates "very high risk" of developing a pressure sore
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Why use the Waterlow Score?

The Waterlow Score helps the medical team develop a plan of nursing care for the patient. This might include a reassessment of the type of dressings used on the wound, improving the quality of the mattress and duvet used by the patient and the provision of good, nutritious meals to aid wound healing.

By ascribing a score to the patient's bed wounds, the medical team can assess the patient's recovery as they transition from hospital to a nursing home or their own home.

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Failure to use the system and subsequent neglect or injury

Unfortunately, this scoring system is not always followed. Failure to use the scoring system does not mean neglect, illness or injury is inevitable, but it may increase risk if no other system is in place to protect bed-bound patients.

If you or a member of your family has suffered neglect or injury and would like to talk about your options, call us in confidence on 0800 612 7456 or complete an online form and we will call you back at a convenient time.

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