Research by the Health Ombudsman found that delays in diagnosing and treating Sepsis is causing unnecessary deaths in our hospitals. ‘It is time for the NHS to act to save lives by improving care of patients with Sepsis’, she says.
Sepsis occurs when the immune system responds to infection. It is therefore a combination of some form of infection and the body’s own reaction. It can cause inflammation, raised blood pressure and clotting problems leading to multiple organ failure. If not treated promptly it can lead to strokes, severe disability and death.
Our own experience as Clinical / Medical Negligence Solicitors suggests that the Health Ombudsman is absolutely right that our hospitals often fail to recognise and manage this condition. Staff are trained to use Early Warning Score systems (known as MEWS) to recognise when observations of temperature, pulse and blood oxygen levels suggest a developing problem. However in many of our most serious cases of Clinical & Medical Negligence either the observations have not been done or the warning systems have not been followed. Often the problem has occurred over a weekend.
Examples of Hospital Neglect include:
• A 36 year old man with a serious knee injury involving unrecognised damage to the arteries of the leg. He developed Sepsis over a weekend. There were delays in recognising his developing Sepsis. By the time staff noticed it was too late to save his leg and he had to undergo and above-knee amputation.
• A 43 year old man with an untreated hip infection who was admitted to a London hospital on a Friday evening. He began to develop Sepsis on the Saturday afternoon. By the time staff realised late on the Sunday his heart was affected and he needed emergency surgery. His treatment was too late to avoid a stroke which has left him brain damaged, unable to walk and in need of 24 hour care.
• A 30 year old man who was seen in the Minor Injuries Unit of a London hospital. He saw a doctor who failed to recognise his serious condition. The man collapsed and died the following morning.
• A woman in her 70s who developed sepsis over the weekend after an uncomplicated operation to remove her gallbladder. By the time staff had realised how seriously ill she was it was too late to save her life and she died on the Monday morning.
Not only are failures in recognising and managing sepsis a shortcoming in our health service but the problems they cause are among the most serious possible. The systems are there for staff to use and it is difficult to understand why the management of sepsis is not better.