How is the Waterlow Score used in a negligence claim?

Nurse with patient sitting up in bed

The Waterlow Score is a medical assessment tool used to assess the risk of a bed-bound patient developing pressure sores (bedsores). The tool is widely used in accident and emergency departments, hospital wards, and residential nursing homes across the UK.

If you or a loved one have developed bed sores and the Waterlow Score was not used, it may be possible to make a medical negligence claim.

How does the Waterlow risk assessment process work?

The risk assessment process uses the Waterlow Score Card that covers the seven known risk factors that contribute towards the development of pressure ulcers.

These risk factors include the patient's:

  • age and gender
  • body mass index (BMI)
  • level of continence
  • skin condition (healthy or broken)
  • appetite
  • level of mobility (fully mobile to bed-bound)
  • individual risk factors, e.g. medication, surgery and trauma

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

  • a score of 10-14 indicates "at-risk"
  • a score of 15-19 indicates "high risk"
  • a score of 20 and above indicates "very high risk"

For more information, see (pressure ulcer prevention and management:

How does the Waterlow Score help bed-bound patients?

The Waterlow Score helps the medical team develop a nursing care plan for the patient. This plan might include:

  • a reassessment of the type of dressings used on the wound
  • improving the quality of the mattress and duvet
  • an assessment of the patient's nutritional needs to further aid healing.

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

What happens if the Waterlow Score is not used leading to neglect or injury?

Despite the best efforts of medical institutions to ensure that full risk assessments are regularly carried out, the Waterlow scoring system is not always used. Failure to use the scoring system does not necessarily mean that the patient has been deliberately neglected. However, hospitals and their employees are under increasing pressure and, unfortunately, mistakes do occur.

Failure to carry out the risk assessment does not mean that pressure sore injury is inevitable, but it may the increase risk if no other system is in place to protect bed-bound patients.

If you or a loved one have been affected by pressure sores, we may be able to help you make a compensation claim.

See also:

medical negligence claim.

Clinical negligence claims

Bedsore-related negligence may be categorised as clinical negligence. Click on the icon below for more information.

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