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Home pressures: failures of care and pressure ulcer problems in the community – the findings of serious case reviews

Jill Manthorpe (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London, UK)
Stephen Martineau (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 11 December 2017




Local serious case reviews (SCRs) (now Safeguarding Adults Reviews (SARs)) may be held in England when a vulnerable adult dies or is harmed or at risk of being so, and local agencies may not have responded to the abuse or neglect. The purpose of this paper is to present findings from a documentary analysis of these reviews to ascertain what recommendations are made about pressure ulcer prevention and treatment at home, setting these in the context of safeguarding, and assessing what lessons may be learned by considering them as a group. This analysis is presented at a time of increased interest of the risks of pressure ulcers among frail and very ill populations; and debates about the interface of neglect and safeguarding systems.


Identification of SCRs from England where the person who died or who was harmed had been suffering from pressure ulcers or their synonyms in their home; termed home acquired pressure ulcers. Narrative and textual analysis of documents summarising the reports was undertaken to explore the reviews’ observations and recommendations. The main circumstances, recommendations and common themes were identified.


The authors located 18 relevant SCRs, one of which was a case summary and two SARs covering pressure ulcers that had been acquired or worsened when the individual was living at home. Most of these inquired into the individual’s circumstances, their acceptance of care and support, the actions of others in their family or professionals, and the events leading up to the death or harm. Failures to have followed guidance were noted among professionals, and problems within wider health and care systems were identified. Recommendations include calls for greater training on pressure ulcers for home care workers, but also greater risk communication and better adherence to clinical guidelines. A small number focus on neglect by family members, others on self-neglect, including some vulnerable adults’ lack of capacity to care for themselves or to access help. In some SCRs the presence of a pressure ulcer is only mentioned circumstantially.

Research limitations/implications

The value of this documentary analysis is that it draws on case examples and scrutiny at local level. Future research could consider the related findings of SARs as they emerge, similar documents from the rest of the UK, and international perspectives

Practical implications

This analysis highlights the multitude of complex social and health situations that gives rise to pressure ulcers among people living at home. Several SCRs observe problems in the wider communications with and between health and care providers. Nonetheless poor care quality and negligence are reported in some SCRs. Cases of self-neglect give rise to challenging practice situations. While practices and policies about poor quality care and safeguarding in the form of prevention of wilful neglect are emerging, they often relate to hospital and care home settings. Preventing and treating pressure ulcers may be part of safeguarding in its broadest sense but raises the question of whether training, expertise and support on this subject or wider self-neglect and neglect by others are sufficiently robust for home care workers and community-based professionals.


The value of having a set of SCRs is that they lend themselves to analysis and comparison. This analysis is the first to focus on home acquired pressure ulcers and to address wider considerations related to safeguarding policy and practice. Pressure ulcers feature in several SCRs either as contextual information about the vulnerable adults’ health-status or as indications of poor care. The potential value of examining home acquired pressure ulcers as a key line of enquiry is that they are “visible” in the system, with consensus about what they are, how to measure them and what is optimal care and treatment. In the new Care Act 2014 context, they may still feature in safeguarding inquiries as symptoms of failings in systems or of personal culpability for poor care. Learning from them may be of interest to other parts of the UK.



This study was funded by the Department of Health under its Policy Research Programme. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone and should not be interpreted as those of their funders. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone and should not be interpreted as those of the Department of Health, the NIHR or the NHS.


Manthorpe, J. and Martineau, S. (2017), "Home pressures: failures of care and pressure ulcer problems in the community – the findings of serious case reviews", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 19 No. 6, pp. 345-356.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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