The Health Service Ombudsman has found significant failings in the treatment of sepsis, a life-threatening illness which accounts for 100,000 hospital admissions each year from which 37,000 people die. Sepsis occurs when the body's immune system goes into overdrive in reaction to infection and it can lead to widespread inflammation, blood clotting and organ failure.The Ombudsman's report says that more can be done to save the lives of patients with this life-threatening condition and focussed on the deaths of 10 patients who did not receive urgent treatment. It concluded that, in some of the cases, better care and treatment would have prevented the deaths and has called on the NHS to act.
Recommendations include the need for clear clinical guidance to improve recognition and treatment of the condition and for clinical staff to attach more importance to listening to patient's relatives, as they will often be the first people to recognise a deterioration in their loved ones.
Plans also include more involvement of senior doctors in patient care and to raise awareness of the condition in vulnerable groups of patients, such as those who are weak and in hospital.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is now set to produce guidance for both GPs and clinicians to help them recognise sepsis at an early stage.
Harriet Woodward, solicitor in the Penningtons clinical negligence team, said: “We frequently see the tragic impact that the delayed diagnosis of sepsis can have in circumstances where there are clear signs of the illness. In our experience, this particularly happens with children and we hope that, in light of the Ombudsman's findings, better training and care will be implemented to prevent sepsis or at least catch it early to reduce the number of fatalities."