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Delayed diagnosis of sepsis

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    Health Service Ombudsman reports that thousands of lives are being lost unnecessarily because of delays in diagnosis and treatment of sepsis and more needs to be done.

    By Ali Cloak

Today, Friday 13th September, is World Sepsis Day, to raise awareness of this serious infection, which is said to be responsible for over 37,000 deaths in the United Kingdom annually. This blog considers what the symptoms of sepsis are and why prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to avoid unnecessary deaths.

WHAT IS SEPSIS?

Sepsis occurs when the body’s immune system overacts to an infection and damages other tissues and organs. It can cause fever, inflammation, shock, clotting problems and if left untreated it can lead to multiple organ failure and, at worst, death.

Sepsis can be caused by viral, fungal or bacterial infections.  Sepsis can have many causes, for example pneumonia, bowel perforation, urinary infection and severe skin infections.

ACTING ON SYMPTOMS

Symptoms include a very high or very low temperature, fast heart rate, rapid breathing, confusion, slurred speech.

Due to the severity of the condition, prompt management is crucial. Once sepsis has taken hold healthcare workers have just 6 hours to implement the key treatments, known as the ‘Sepsis 6’.

HEALTH SERVICE OMBUDSMAN REPORT

The Health Service Ombudsman has released a report today to coincide with World Sepsis Day. The report highlights nation wide failures to diagnose the condition promptly, failures to recognise the severity of the condition and unacceptable delays in treatment.

The report states that 37,000 of the 100,000 patients diagnosed with sepsis die every year, a figure which is higher than deaths from breast cancer and bowel cancer combined. It remains the primary cause of death from infection, despite advances in modern medicine like vaccines, antibiotics, and intensive care.

The Health Service Ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor, looked at 10 cases where patients did not receive the urgent care they needed in hospital and in each case the patient died. She states that “In some cases, with better treatment, they may have survived. It is time for the NHS to save lives by improving care.”

Ron Daniels, from the UK Sepsis Trust, says “The best hospitals have achieved better outcomes from sepsis by adopting a simple set of life-saving measures, collectively known as the Sepsis 6, and ensuring that a culture of awareness around sepsis has been created”.

OUR EXPERIENCE

Lawyers at Clinical Negligence Team welcome the report findings. It is promising that awareness is being increased in the UK amongst both the public and medical professionals. However, we believe more needs to be done. It is imperative that the severity of sepsis is recognised, incidences of delayed diagnosis of sepsis reduced and that appropriate treatment is given expeditiously to save lives.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case and we often see clients who have suffered devastating injuries as a result of poor management of sepsis. We also have experience of managing cases where patients have died as a result of negligence in the management and treatment of sepsis. Because of the devastating effects of sepsis it is important to seek specialist legal advise to ensure the circumstances of the treatment are fully investigated. If you have concerns as to medical care received in relation to diagnosing or treatment of sepsis and would like to discuss this with a specialist lawyer please get in touch with us.

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  1. Pingback: Undiagnosed sepsis | Clinical Negligence Team Blog

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