Sepsis, or septicaemia as it is otherwise known, is an infection of the blood stream, triggered by an infection or injury, which results in a cluster of symptoms such as a drop in blood pressure, increased heart rate and a fever, often likened to flu. These symptoms can deteriorate rapidly from flu-like symptoms to a complete loss of consciousness and death within a matter of days. Therefore, a quick diagnosis is vital to a patient’s chance of survival.
Unfortunately, sepsis carries a high mortality rate with over 40,000 people dying from sepsis, or sepsis related complications, in the UK each year. Sepsis survivors are often left with long term injuries and care needs, which could potentially have been avoided if the sepsis had been diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage.
Despite extensive campaigning, some medical practitioners still do not carry an extensive awareness of sepsis that is needed so the diagnosis is often overlooked until it becomes too late to act.
When it comes to managing sepsis, the speed of diagnosis is crucial and has a huge impact on the outcome for the patient. Although there are stringent NHS guidelines in place which sets out how clinicians should respond to patients presenting with symptoms of sepsis, they are often overlooked. The guidance states that a NEWS (National Early Warning Score) of 5 or more, accompanied by a suspicion of sepsis, should prompt treatment within 1 hour of the risk being recognised, usually by way of providing intravenous antibiotics to try and combat the infection. Sadly, given the pressures that the NHS currently face, this deadline is often missed. However, where there is a delay in the treatment and management of sepsis, outside the 1-hour guideline, this can be the difference between life and death, severe tissue damage and other major clinical issues.
There is a further stringent criterion among clinical practitioners when dealing with sepsis, where there is evidence of low blood pressure, respiratory rate of 22 breaths per minute or more or, an altered mental state which is considered abnormal for the specific patient. If at least two of these conditions are present in the patient, then further investigation must be commenced immediately, and treatment should be prepared. Of course, some septic patients fall outside of this diagnosis and therefore may be misdiagnosed.
If the symptoms of sepsis are not detected by the treating clinical practitioners resulting in investigations and subsequent treatment being delayed, then the outcome can be fatal. In fact, it is estimated that 10,000 people die each year from sepsis unnecessarily, with their deaths possibly preventable but for the delayed diagnosis of sepsis and poor management of the presenting symptoms.
If you, or a loved one have suffered from the catastrophic effects of sepsis due to a possible delay in diagnosis and/or treatment from a healthcare provider, then you may be able to make a claim for compensation for the negligent care provided to you or them.
Sills & Betteridge Solicitors LLP have a team of Medical Negligence Claims Specialists who can discuss your experience and offer guidance and advice to include raising a complaint and / or exploring the claims process if this is an appropriate way forward. Under the Limitation Act 1980, a Claimant typically has 3 years from the date of negligence or date if knowledge if later to make a claim so it is best to enquire sooner rather than later to ensure that such time limits are not missed and there is sufficient time to discuss and investigate your concerns.