The Health Ombudsman has warned that too many people are still dying from sepsis due to avoidable delays in diagnosis and treatment.

According to research by The UK Sepsis Trust 48,000 people die in the UK from a sepsis related illness each year. Many of these deaths could have been avoided with earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition. It is caused by the body’s immune system overreacting to an infection and then starting to attack the body’s own tissues and organs. If left untreated, it can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and ultimately death. It can start with an infection such as a UTI or chest infection and it is not known what triggers some people’s immune systems to overact leading to sepsis.

A report in 2013 by the Health Ombudsman looking at sepsis deaths concluded that patients were being failed by sepsis not being diagnosed or treated quickly enough. Although acknowledging that some improvements have been made since 2013, today’s report calls for more urgent action to avoid these preventable deaths. The full report can be read here.

Today’s report highlights 5 cases that the Health Ombudsman examined when preparing the Spotlight on Sepsis Report. A brief summary of some of these cases can be read here

In the cases highlighted, these patients’ deaths could have been avoided if there had not been NHS failures to diagnose and treat promptly, if there had been good communication and record-keeping, and if opportunities for follow-up care had not been missed. The Health Ombudsman says that these ‘harrowing stories’ demonstrate how important it is for patients and families to be listened to by medical staff, as well as highlighting the critical importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

The Health Ombudsman supports the introduction of ‘Martha’s Rule’ which would entitle patients to a second opinion about their hospital care.  Our specialist team acted for the family of Martha Mills and covered ‘Martha’s Rule’ in an earlier news article on our website in September 2023 here

The UK Sepsis Trust provides invaluable information about sepsis. Its symptom checker has helped to raise public and NHS awareness of the red flags for sepsis when urgent medical attention is needed. The symptoms are different for adults and children. ‘Just ask: could it be sepsis?’ is a reminder by The UK Sepsis Trust to both NHS staff and the public to consider sepsis as a cause of someone’s symptoms. If sepsis is a possibility, then timely investigations and treatment should be carried out.

The medical negligence team at Davies and Partners are experienced in supporting families who have been affected by delays in the treatment of sepsis. If you or someone in your family has been affected by potential mistakes involving the diagnosis or treatment of sepsis, please contact the team for an initial no obligation discussion.