Campaign to raise awareness of sepsis 'could save 14,000 lives a year'


Thousands of lives could be saved each year if more was done to combat sepsis, a charity has said.

The UK Sepsis Trust said 14,000 lives could be saved across the UK each year if the Government took steps to raise awareness among the public and medics and if health officials tracked the care patients receive.

Bereaved mother Melissa Mead, whose son William died after medics failed to spot he had sepsis, is also calling for heightened awareness of the condition.

On Monday Mrs Mead and the charity are meeting key health officials, including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, to discuss what can be done to improve the care for patients with sepsis.

Mrs Mead, 29, from Penryn, Cornwall, is calling for a major new campaign to highlight the condition. Last month, a report into the death of 12-month-old William criticised GPs, out-of-hours services and a 111 call handler who failed to spot he had sepsis caused by an underlying chest infection and pneumonia.

She told the Press Association: "If our doctors aren't recognising sepsis how are parents supposed to recognise it? That is something I want to raise - how to we get that out there?

"It needs to be in packs which are given to first time parents, it needs to be on TV like the Fast stroke campaign and the meningitis campaign, it needs to be out there for the general public to grasp.

"When I called 111 I didn't know that William was seriously ill, I didn't collectively look at William's symptoms and think 'this is sepsis' because I didn't know what sepsis was.

"I was checking for rashes all over William because I knew what meningitis was but I didn't know what sepsis was."

Since the publication of the report into William's death, Mrs Mead has been contacted by three parents who have thanked her for saving the lives of their children because of the work she had done to raise awareness of sepsis.

"William changed my life, he made a difference in my life and changed it for the better and I just hope now that he can move forward and change other people's lives because it is the only way I can share my son now," she said.

At the meeting Mrs Mead also plans to talk about how officials can do more to ensure sepsis is recognised earlier and that it is dealt with in a timely manner.

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of The UK Sepsis Trust, is calling for a number of measures to improve outcomes for the tens of thousands diagnosed with sepsis each year, including a new awareness campaign, the setting up a national registry which tracks progress in sepsis care and better training for health professionals.

If the proposed measures were put in place thousands of lives could be saved, he said.

"An awareness campaign is something we've been calling for for a long time," he said.

"That of course is only a part of what's needed. We need to make sure that health professional education is robust and is mandated. We have to have a better measure of outcomes and we have to have some resources available that reward excellent care."

Dr Daniels said the latest figures show there are 44,000 deaths from sepsis each year.

"We conservatively estimate that we can save another 14,000 lives across the UK every year, and we would hope rather more than that," he added.

When the body is in sepsis, its immune system goes into overdrive which can lead to inflammation, swelling and blood clotting. This can lead to a decrease in blood pressure which can mean the blood supply to vital organs is reduced. If the condition is not treated quickly it can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

Early symptoms include fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and quick breathing. Symptoms of more severe sepsis or septic shock include feeling dizzy or faint, confusion or disorientation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin.