One in four NHS trusts are failing to treat sepsis within recommended time

New figures obtained by BBC Panorama reveal that one in four NHS hospital trusts are failing to administer antibiotics to patients with sepsis within the recommended timeframe. Of the 104 NHS trusts, 78% of patients were being screened but only 63% were receiving antibiotics within an hour, during the 12 month period to March 2017.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a potentially life threatening condition that can be treated should the symptoms be spotted early enough. Sepsis is the reaction to an infection where the body attacks its own organs and tissues and therefore often affects multiple organs. The elderly and children are most commonly affected by sepsis and the symptoms vary but can include:

  • Rapid breathing/breathlessness
  • Slurred speech
  • Extreme shivering or severe muscle pain
  • Mottled or discoloured skin, or a rash in children
  • Severe vomiting in babies

Each year sepsis affects more than 250,000 people across the UK.

Treating sepsis

NHS rules state that anyone with suspected sepsis should be treated with antibiotics within an hour of arriving at hospital/showing the signs of the illness. However, the figures show that these guidelines are being missed with 37% of patients not receiving such treatment.

The figures have also highlighted a real disparity in treatment across the various trusts, with 10 of the trusts stating that they had spotted every suspected case of sepsis, but 14 trusts failed to spot the signs of sepsis in half of patients

In instances where sepsis diagnosis and treatment is delayed, hospitals may find themselves facing delayed diagnosis compensation claims from patients who have suffered as a direct result of delayed diagnosis and treatment. Whilst sepsis itself is not preventable, the NHS guidelines for the rapid treatment of suspected sepsis cases should mean that suffering is minimised and patients are given the best possible opportunity of defeating the illness with little impact on their long-term health. However, in instances where poor or substandard care has led directly to increased suffering or long-term health issues, patients and their families may wish to pursue a medical negligence compensation claim.

The impact of sepsis

Delayed or missed treatment of sepsis can have devastating consequences. Figures obtained by BBC Panorama reveal that there are 44,000 deaths from sepsis each year, of which 14,000 are entirely preventable. This makes it the leading cause of avoidable death in the UK.

Patients who have recovered from sepsis are also vulnerable to post-sepsis syndrome, which can have both physical and psychological effects. Research suggests those that needed to be admitted to intensive care with sepsis are the most likely to develop post-sepsis syndrome, again reinforcing the importance of a timely diagnosis to minimise the risk of developing such syndrome.

On the statistics, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

“I wouldn’t pretend that we get this right everywhere, we’re on a journey, we definitely need to do a lot better but I think that we have made significant progress. There are preventable deaths happening but we’re bringing them down.”

Comment from medical negligence solicitors, Blackwater Law

On reviewing the statistics specialist medical negligence solicitor, Jason Brady commented:

“Whilst the figures show that the majority of patients are receiving treatment for sepsis, the numbers of patients who aren’t receiving treatment in time is a concern. We have seen firsthand the impact of a missed diagnosis on both the patient and their family and we receive enquiries regarding such medical negligence claims from those seeking compensation for their suffering.”

Get expert advice

Call today and speak to Jason Brady, specialist medical negligence solicitor. Find out if you can claim compensation.

CALL 0800 083 5500