More must be done to save the lives of patients with sepsis

  • Posted

Posted 15/09/2013

Around 37,000 people are estimated to die of sepsis each year and it accounts for 100,000 hospital admissions. The Health Service Ombudsman has found significant failings in the treatment of the condition which is caused when the body’s immune system overreacts to infection. Sepsis can lead to swelling and blood clotting and can cause internal organs to stop working. The most common causes of severe sepsis are pneumonia, bowel perforation, urinary infection, and severe skin infections.

The Ombudsman, who investigates complaints from people who have received poor service from the NHS in England, said diagnosing and treatment presented some real problems because the condition was hard to spot and treat. The research focused on ten patients who were not treated urgently enough and died.

One of the patients reviewed was Jem Abbotts who was 37 years old and recovering from a routine operation when he became ill. He started vomiting and feeling feverish so the GP prescribed antibiotics and he went to bed to recover. But a few days later he woke up vomiting and was rushed to hospital in a coma, as his organs began to fail. He had contracted a bacterial infection which had entered his bloodstream, causing sepsis.

Julie Mellor, the Health Service Ombudsman, said it was time for the NHS to act. “In the cases in our report, sadly, all patients died. In some of these cases, with better care and treatment, they may have survived.

“We have worked closely with NHS England, NICE, UK Sepsis Trust and Royal Colleges to find solutions to the issues identified in our report. NICE and NHS England have already agreed to take forward the recommendations of our report”.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will produce guidance for GPs and clinicians to help them recognise sepsis at an early stage.

Julie Crossley, a medical injury lawyer at Ashtons Legal, commented: “It is clearly important that the symptoms are recognised and a diagnosis made as quickly as possible.  This study highlights the difficulty in diagnosis but may raise awareness which could lead to lives being saved.”


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