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Following the deaths of more than 100 patients’ due to their failing health not being identified, NHS Improvement has issued a patient safety alert.
The patient safety alert urges England’s 134 acute hospital trusts and 10 ambulance services to do more in order to spot the early signs of a patient’s health deteriorating. It is thought that the recent fatalities of more than 100 patients during 2017 revealed weaknesses in the current methods used to determine whether a patient’s health is deteriorating including identifying serious conditions such as sepsis, which is thought to claim the lives of more than 37,000 people a year.
It is acknowledged that certain conditions such as sepsis can be incredibly difficult to diagnose due to many of the symptoms also being symptoms of other less serious infections. The main symptoms of sepsis include a fast heart rate, a high temperature or low body temperature and chills and shivering. In younger children symptoms can include being lethargic and a rash that does not fade when pressed.
A speedy diagnosis of sepsis can have a huge impact on patient outcome as it is thought that every 30 minute delay in treatment for sepsis can increase the risk of death by 7 percent. As a result, those who have suffered from a delay in treatment may pursue a delayed diagnosis claim in order to seek compensation from any suffering incurred as a result.
Hospitals should be using a system which was updated in December 2017 to include new items that would help identify potential cases of sepsis. The system is centred around scores based on an individuals blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels. Any change in the score given to an individual can be seen as a sign of their health either improving or deteriorating. However, it is thought that 2 out of 3 trusts in England were using an outdated system to identify failing health, highlighting disparities amongst the trusts and raising the chances of patients pursuing hospital negligence claims in the trusts with the outdated systems.
The patient safety alert will now compel all trusts in England to use the updated system in order to ensure consistency across all trusts and to help reduce the number of deaths due to rapid changes in health. This should also help to minimise the number of medical negligence claims that are pursued in this area. This is also thought to help reduce the number of patients pursuing a misdiagnosis claim from an incorrect diagnosis.
The chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, Peter Walsh commented:
“Different hospitals around the country are adopting different strategies around sepsis, causing a kind of postcode lottery. By creating one single robust approach nationwide we would be reducing the risk of staff not following the right procedure and patients dying as a result.”