Clinical Negligence & Catastrophic Injury Solicitors
Hospital sepsis deaths rise by a third.
Sepsis deaths recorded in England's hospitals have risen by more than a third in two years, according to data collected by a leading safety expert.
In the year ending April 2017, there were 15,722 deaths in hospital or within 30 days of discharge, where sepsis was the leading cause, according to the findings of Prof Sir Brian Jarman.
Sepsis is a rare, but serious, complication of an infection, which can lead to multiple organ failure if not treated quickly.
Sir Brian, director of the Dr Foster research unit at Imperial College, London, hopes his data can be used to improve the survival chances of hospital patients who develop sepsis, through alerts that he sends to hospitals that are falling behind.
He said: "Some of those hospitals with a lower death rate have got particular ways of reducing mortality from septicaemia, which we hope the others might learn from, and also we hope that by giving them this alert they can do something quickly."
There has been a focus on screening for sepsis in the NHS in recent years, led by the UK Sepsis Trust, formed by a group of clinicians at the Good Hope Hospital, Birmingham.
Chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust and an intensive care consultant, Dr Ron Daniels, said sepsis is responsible for killing up to 44,000 UK people a year, in hospital and the community, although he said that hospital records made it almost impossible to keep track of the true number of deaths.
He said said: "It's very common that if someone dies of sepsis it's coded or reported as simply being the underlying infection.
"So they might die of sepsis in an intensive care unit with multiple organ failure but they're recorded as a death from pneumonia. We need to fix that problem before we can truly understand the scale of sepsis.
"The best way for us to do this is to develop a prospective data system like a registry that exists for other conditions, so that we can get a national picture of what's really going on.
"The treatment for sepsis, if it's caught early enough, involves very basic interventions, looking for the source of the infection, giving antibiotics.
"For every hour we delay in giving antibiotics, the patient's risk of dying increases by a few per cent, so it's essential that we spot it early and deliver the basics of care quickly."
Sir Brian added: "The biggest thing that's important seems to be the number of staff and doctors per bed.
"A secondary factor is hospital overcrowding. The level of overcrowding shouldn't be more than 85% bed occupancy and it's been exceeding 90% in recent years."
But chair of medicine at University College London, professor Bryan Williams, said more sepsis cases are being picked up.
He said: "What is happening is an increased awareness and detection of sepsis and a reduction in mortality in hospital, and during the first 30 days after discharge, from sepsis."
He said it was important for the public to recognise that the NHS was taking sepsis incredibly seriously. “If you go to any hospital now, it is treated as one of the priorities and death rates are falling."
An NHS England spokesperson said: "During the past three years there has been huge effort across the NHS to increase clinical recognition and recording of sepsis.
"That improved method of recording means some cases previously recorded as simple infections are now classified as sepsis. So this data does not prove an increase in sepsis cases per se."
Sepsis is triggered by infections, but occurs when our own immune system goes into overdrive.
It starts with an infection such as a contaminated cut or insect bite. Normally, our immune system fights the infection and stops it spreading but, if the infection manages to spread quickly round the body, then the immune system launches a massive immune response to fight it.
This can also be a problem as the immune response can have catastrophic effects on the body, leading to septic shock, organ failure and even death.
The symptoms include slurred speech, extreme shivering or muscle pain, not passing any urine in a day and severe breathlessness and mottled or discoloured skin.
In young children symptoms include looking mottled, bluish or pale, being lethargic or difficult to wake, abnormally cold to touch, fast breathing, a rash that does not fade when you press it and a seizure or convulsion.