Doctors urged to treat sepsis as urgently as heart attacks
New guidance published today by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for medical staff dealing with signs of sepsis is very welcome.
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a body's immune system overreacts to infection. According to figures released by the UK Sepsis Trust, there are around 150,000 cases of sepsis each year, of which 44,000 (30 per cent) are fatal. An independent report by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death reveals delays in identifying sepsis in more than a third (36 per cent) of cases.
The new guidelines urge health professionals to consider sepsis as a diagnosis in all patients who have an infection. GPs are advised to urgently send patients who might have sepsis to hospital via ambulance and, once in hospital, patients should be seen by a nurse or senior doctor immediately so that treatment can start without delay.
According to Professor Saul Faust, chairman of the group that developed the guidelines
"Anyone can succumb to sepsis. We want clinicians to start asking 'could this be sepsis?' much earlier so they can rule it out or get people the treatment they need. The thinking should be similar to considering that chest pain could be heart related."
The NICE report follows the tragic death of William Mead in January 2016, a story we covered at the time - Read the report here
At Fieldfisher, we have dealt with many cases where the diagnosis of sepsis came too late and caused avoidable death.
We acted for the family of a young baby who died at University College London Hospital (UCLH) following a negligent delay in treating him. Baby A was brought to hospital by his mother, who was worried he had temperature and was not feeding. On admission, he was triaged but not seen by a nurse for more than an hour. At that point, the nurse failed to react to the fact that the baby's temperature was 38.4 degrees and his pulse 208 beats per minute. She did not refer him to the medical team and failed to take repeat observations, despite his vomiting twice during the next hour.
When the baby was eventually seen by a junior doctor, after a cursory examination, he diagnosed tonsillitis and sent the family home. . Baby A's condition rapidly deteriorated once home and he was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital later that evening. Tragically, he died.
UCLH admitted that its treatment was negligent and that the baby would have survived with appropriate treatment. - Read the full case report here
By Mark Bowman, Partner
Mark joined the team as a trainee in 2003 and was promoted to Partner in 2013. He successfully pursues personal injury claims and medical negligence claims on behalf of victims and their families.
His medical negligence practice is wide ranging and includes birth injury, surgical negligence and delayed diagnosis amongst others. His personal injury speciality is catastrophic injury cases and in particular road traffic accidents and accidents at work. Mark has recently secured the right to anonymity for Claimants who are protected parties or children in personal injury or medical negligence cases, in the landmark Court of Appeal case of JxMx.
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