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New figures have revealed that in the past two years, hospitals in England have recorded a third more sepsis deaths than in previous years. The figures have raised concerns over the level of care provided in hospitals and whether any of the deaths may be attributable to hospital negligence.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a condition that arises from an infection – a contaminated cut, or flu or even an insect bite. Instead of the immune system kicking in and fighting the source of the infection, the system actually kicks into overdrive and launches a major immune attack. This can have the consequences that the body may go into septic shock or organ failure. Sepsis can develop quickly and any delays in initiating treatment may have fatal consequences.
Sepsis can be very hard to initially diagnose as it can present itself with a number of different symptoms which may deteriorate quickly. This can include: breathlessness, slurred speech, mottled skin or discoloured skin or for children a rash that does not fade when pressed or seizures.
The latest figures show that in 2016-2017 there were 15,722 deaths in hospital or within 30 days of discharge where sepsis was the leading cause. This represents a huge increase when compared to the 11,328 sepsis related deaths in 2014-2015.
Although the exact reason behind the increase in sepsis related deaths is unknown, it is thought that bed occupancy levels above the target of 85% can make it harder for doctors and medical staff to treat patients quickly and to identify any potential cases for concern. This is particularly alarming as in the winter months, bed occupancy levels regularly exceed 90%. In cases where sepsis has gone unnoticed and a patient has suffered adversely as a result they may wish to seek a delayed diagnosis compensation claim. In some cases the symptoms of sepsis may actually present themselves as other, less severe conditions however a rapid diagnosis is critical and in instances where this has not occurred, it may be possible to seek a misdiagnosis claim.
However, the NHS have commented that the sharp increase in the number of recorded cases of sepsis can be attributed to an increasing awareness of the condition amongst staff as well as more illnesses being recorded as sepsis than in previous years. This ensures that they are taking positive steps to help identify more cases of sepsis and initiate treatment in the first instance. It is hoped that this greater awareness of the condition will lead to a better patient outcome and help to reduce the number of medical negligence claims arising as a result.
The on-going early detection and treatment of sepsis remains critical in saving patients’ lives, a challenge which is only set to get harder in the forthcoming winter months whereby bed occupancy levels increase and hospitals have a limited bed capacity.