Sepsis awareness crucial but so is training

13th July 2016 Clinical Negligence

Sepsis (or blood poisoning) is a very serious illness that can cause death and catastrophic injury. If it is caught and treated with antibiotics in time then in most cases the patient will make a full recovery.

However with early symptoms that are vague and mirrored by much less serious viruses and common infections it is vital that further investigations are done and sepsis is ruled out at the earliest possible opportunity.

Having represented patients and families who have been devastated by the failure to diagnose and treat sepsis I was encouraged to read today that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published its first guidance on the issue.

According to the BBC, NICE wants GPs and hospital doctors to consider sepsis early on when treating patients suffering with an infection. Experts predict that up to 13,000 of the 44,000 annual sepsis deaths could be avoided if medical workers were more alert to the condition. The more awareness that can be raised of sepsis the better and hopefully this latest move by NICE will quickly result in a fall in the death rate.

However as well as the publishing of this guidance I feel it would also be useful for more detailed training to be offered to doctors to help them to recognise sepsis. Pressure on hospital staff and beds and concerns about the number of antibiotics being doled out by doctors could raise the threshold for a misdiagnosis.

Doctors need to be as well-equipped as possible to differentiate sepsis from more minor infections. If the doctor who discharged the nine-year-old daughter of my clients Gemma and Justin Rawding had correctly diagnosed sepsis then there is every chance that she would have survived. However it was missed and now her family will have to carry that tragedy for the rest of their lives.

So while this guidance is a huge step in the right direction I feel there is still much more to be done if the full life-saving potential is to be recognised.

 

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Eddie Jones is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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