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September 13th 2020

Medical Negligence

Covid-19 has made it more important than ever to be ‘Sepsis Aware’

Covid-19 has made it more important than ever to be ‘Sepsis Aware’

There has never been a time where there has been greater need for people to be aware of the danger of sepsis.

There has never been a time where there has been greater need for people to be aware of the danger of sepsis.

According to recent NHS statistics, although figures vary, around 100,000 people are admitted to hospital with sepsis in the UK each year – and around 37,000 of those die from the condition.

A recent article in the Lancet put global figures for 2017 at an estimated 48.9 million cases of sepsis and 11 million sepsis-related deaths. Of those who survive, 40% will suffer permanent, life-changing after effects.

That was before the impact of Covid-19 on peoples’ health, and of course on our health system, which now finds itself battling a backlog of cases where people have missed out on vital tests, assessments and treatment.

According to The UK Sepsis Trust, Covid-19 itself can also cause sepsis.

This Sunday, September 13, marks World Sepsis Day and The UK Sepsis Trust is continuing its fight against the life-threatening condition, aiming to stop preventable deaths through better understanding, awareness and treatment and by supporting those affected.

It recently issued a stark warning, saying it believes around 20,000 people who have survived Covid-19 and been discharged from hospital are likely to develop sepsis within 12 months. That is a figure which is hugely worrying – and potentially life threatening for many.

It has called on the UK Government to lead an awareness campaign about Sepsis – which kills more people a year than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined – to make it an immediate consideration when anybody becomes unexpectedly, and suddenly ill.

It says a simple awareness campaign, using its own recent ‘Just Ask: Could it be Sepsis?’ message, could not only save the NHS thousands in treatment costs, but more importantly could save thousands of lives.

Sepsis – a killer we see missed by many on a day to day basis

Certainly, a lack of awareness of the dangers of sepsis is something we see almost every day in our work at Hudgell Solicitors.

It is a killer that is repeatedly missed by many, and sadly that often extends beyond families to GPs and hospital doctors and nurses, who simply don’t spot the signs early enough and take appropriate medical steps.

It is why we have supported many campaigns to raise awareness of sepsis symptoms, and even launched our own ‘Hour of Need’ awareness campaign to highlight the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

This is because patients diagnosed with sepsis and treated within the first hour have an 80% chance of surviving, but after six hours without treatment, those chances of survival can reduce to as little as 30%.

Sepsis occurs through aggressive infections, or when people have a weakened immune system.

It spreads extremely quickly to other areas of the body, causing the immune system to react. Oxygen levels in the blood supply can decrease and be prevented from reaching vital organs, causing blood pressure to drop and septic shock.

The very young, very old, diabetics, pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are at increased risk, whilst people are more likely to develop sepsis after a viral illness like a cold, or a minor injury.

My colleagues and I have represented families in holding health bodies to account when sepsis has either not been considered at all by medical professionals, or not identified early enough to ensure appropriate treatment.

In one tragic case handled by our team a one-year-old boy died of sepsis as he was left unmonitored for six hours in hospital as his condition worsened. He had previously had chicken pox and was making a good recovery when he suddenly became ill at home. Doctors simply didn’t see the urgency of his situation.

The Trust involved admitted that earlier treatment with antibiotics would have, in the balance of probabilities, saved the boy’s life

In another case, a man in his 40s developed sepsis and an abscess on his kidney after doctors failed to diagnose a urinary infection and told him he had flu. He spent more than a week in hospital and needed intravenous antibiotics. He was later told his situation could have quickly got much more dangerous had it not been treated when it was.

In a year where we have all become hugely aware of a new killer in our community and on our hospital wards, we mustn’t lose sight of the danger sepsis poses to us all, as it can quickly develop from the most minor illness or injury.

The UK Sepsis Trust gives the following advice for Sepsis Symptoms.

In adults

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Passing no urine (in a day)
  • Severe breathlessness
  • It feels like you’re going to die
  • Skin mottled or discoloured

In children

A child may have sepsis if he or she:

  • Is breathing very fast
  • Has a ‘fit’ or convulsion
  • Looks mottled, bluish, or pale
  • Has a rash that does not fade when you press it
  • Is very lethargic or difficult to wake
  • Feels abnormally cold to touch

A child under 5 may have sepsis if he or she:

  • Is not feeding
  • Is vomiting repeatedly
  • Has not passed urine for 12 hours

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