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What Happens When Sepsis Isn’t Treated as Urgently as Heart Attacks?

New guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence urges medical professionals to treat suspected sepsis with the same urgency as heart attacks.

We have many cases involving sepsis where clinical and medical negligence claimants have either sadly passed away or suffered life changing injuries as a result of medical staff not considering a diagnosis of sepsis early enough. The Surviving Sepsis Campaign Guidelines have been around for a number of years now but from the work I have done, it appears these have not been widely implemented.

Prof Mark Baker, from NICE, told the BBC: "The problem with those patients who died unnecessarily of sepsis is that staff did not think about it soon enough.

“It requires a depth of thought and experience and a way of examining patients which isn't always there - particularly because of time pressures and partly because we have got used to implementing guidelines without thinking."

Dr Maureen Baker, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "The diagnosis of sepsis is a huge worry for GPs, as initial symptoms can be similar to common viral illnesses, so we welcome any guidance or support to help us identify it as early as possible."

Sepsis really is a life changing and threatening condition which if identified early enough can be treated, but if not, it can have devastating consequences .For too long, mistakes have been made that continue to cost patients dearly.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis occurs when your body’s immune system overreacts to an infection. If not treated early enough, it can lead to severe organ failure, septic shock and death.

According to the UK Sepsis Trust, every year in the UK there are 150,000 cases of sepsis, and is responsible for more than 44,000 deaths – more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined. Sepsis is one of the most common causes of death in intensive care units.

Experts believe that, by treating more cases of sepsis early enough, between 5,000 and 13,000 could be avoided.
Early symptoms of sepsis may include:

  • a high temperature (fever) or low body temperature
  • chills and shivering
  • a fast heartbeat
  • fast breathing

The NHS advise that you see your GP immediately or call NHS 111 if you've recently had an infection or injury and you have possible early signs of sepsis.

If sepsis is suspected, you'll usually be referred to hospital for further diagnosis and treatment.

Severe sepsis and septic shock are medical emergencies. If you think that you or someone in your care has one of these conditions, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

I am pleased to see there is new NICE guidance issued today dealing with the recognition, diagnosis and early management of sepsis and my hope is that this will be embraced and implemented amongst all medical personnel from GP’s, to paramedics and all hospital staff to enable them to recognise the early warning signs for sepsis and provide appropriate treatment.

Victoria Gofton is a clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon in London.

The medical negligence lawyers at Slater and Gordon are experts in dealing with NHS and medical negligence claims.

For a free consultation about a clinical negligence claim call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.


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