Strength in Numbers dedicated to my late mother Kay

Poor hospital care blamed for thousands of deaths from sepsis every year: Nearly half of patients die or end up disabled because cases are diagnosed late

  • Condition affects estimated 200,000 people a year in UK and kills 37,000
  • Sepsis occurs when bacterial infection sparks violent immune response
  •  Early signs of condition include fever, inflammation and blood clotting
  •  But warnings are often missed by doctors and can lead to heart failure

Basic failings in hospital care are contributing to thousands of deaths from sepsis every year, according to a damning report. Known as the ‘silent killer’, the condition affects an estimated 200,000 people a year in Britain and kills 37,000 – more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined. Early signs of sepsis – which usually occurs when a bacterial infection sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs – include fever, inflammation and blood clotting. But these warnings are often missed by doctors and, if not recognised quickly, can lead to failure of the heart, liver, kidneys or lungs. It is the leading cause of avoidable death in the UK.

An audit, conducted by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death, found that there were delays in diagnosing sepsis in 36 per cent of cases, rising to 52 per cent in severe cases.  Even when the condition was suspected, treatment to bring it under control was not always given quickly. The report found that a third of hospitals had no formal protocol for tackling the problem and that 45 per cent of patients admitted with sepsis either died or suffered a major disability.

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