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Woman Who Died of Sepsis Was Told She “Wasn’t That Sick”

An inquest has heard how a woman who died of sepsis was told four days before her death that she “wasn’t that sick.”

Aande Ward
After having been vomiting for several hours, the 30 year-old London woman was rushed to Croydon University hospital’s Accident and Emergency department in September 2013.

Croydon coroner’s court heard how when she arrived, a hospital receptionist who wasn’t medically trained concluded that the woman wasn’t in fact ill and sent her to a Virgin Care-run ‘urgent care centre’ for minor ailments.

The receptionist involved told the inquest: “I wasn’t to know that she was that sick.” This was despite the woman repeatedly vomiting in the waiting room. When her husband pleaded for a nurse, stressing that his wife’s condition was getting worse, the receptionist told him they would just have to wait.

It took an hour to find a nurse and when one eventually arrived and realised the gravity of the situation, the woman was taken to an NHS casualty resuscitation room where a junior doctor who was only in her second year of post-qualification training was said to have struggled with fitting equipment to provide the woman with fluids.

Telling the inquest that she had known she was “out of her depth,” the doctor summoned an emergency department registrar for assistance but became concerned that he hadn’t grasped how seriously ill the woman was, “I was quite aggressive, he said, ‘You can refer (to intensive care) if you want but they will not accept her as she is not unwell enough,’ so I made the referral myself.”

Tragically, despite undergoing surgery on a ruptured ovarian cyst, the woman died of sepsis and multiple organ failure. Sepsis is one of the most common causes of death in intensive care units and is responsible for more than 75,000 deaths every year in the UK. Initial symptoms include fever and nausea but 30% of those who develop the infection die within just four weeks.

Sepsis can affect anyone of any age, it doesn’t discriminate. It is also on the increase and unfortunately, it is often overlooked or misdiagnosed. This failure to recognise and manage sepsis is something Slater and Gordon’s medical negligence solicitors see all too often in many of our most serious cases, particularly when patients are admitted to hospital over the weekend.

The management of sepsis in hospitals so often falls below expected standards and it is crucial awareness of sepsis is raised in the medical profession particularly in regard to how serious the consequences can be if it is not identified and treated early.

Victoria Gofton is a Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon in London.

If you or a member of your family suffered from negligent treatment in hospital, call our Medical Negligence Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and we will call you.

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