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27 June 2019 | Comment | Article by Lynda Reynolds

Identifying Sepsis – simple steps to save lives

Sepsis is your body’s response to an infection that sometimes becomes overwhelming and causes multi organ failure. It can occur from the most minor of injuries but can lead to devastating consequences.

You can develop sepsis at home or in hospital. The development of sepsis after surgery is well recognised. It is more common after abdominal surgery but can happen after even minor procedures. The key to the treatment of sepsis is early recognition and prompt treatment.

The National Early Warning Scores (now NEWS2) are designed to identify deteriorating patients and can indicate someone is developing sepsis. The scores are calculated from the standard observations of heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, temperature, level of consciousness and oxygen saturation. They provide invaluable early indicators of problems.

Problems can arise when patients are developing sepsis include; failure to perform observations or repeat them if there are signs of deterioration, scores are incorrectly calculated or appropriate escalation does not occur. This is frequently attributed to individual human error. One of the ways to reduce human error is to introduce electronic observations. This can allow for prompts to be made to perform the observations, will ensure that results are stored for review, NEWS scores are correctly added up and warnings are automatically activated. Some hospitals have started to introduce this but it is not the majority of hospitals yet.

We have acted for the family of a young man who suffered a minor leg abrasion who developed sepsis. The NEWS scores were incorrectly calculated in A&E and he was discharged home. He deteriorated further and when readmitted later that day was suffering multi organ failure and died shortly afterwards. This is not an isolated case and there are multiple examples of apparently young fit and healthy people dying as a result of sepsis.

The key to survival is prompt treatment. The ‘sepsis six’ is the nationally recognised treatment programme which includes delivery of antibiotics and intravenous fluids within one hour of suspecting sepsis. For every hour that passes the increase in mortality is 8%.

Hugh James has been instructed by many clients who have experienced the effects of delays in the recognition and treatment of sepsis. We are specialists in understanding the errors that can occur and the after effects that families have to endure. We actively support the work of the Sepsis Trust in raising awareness of sepsis and providing advice to those seeking help.

Author bio

Lynda is a Partner and Head of the Inquest Team that forms part of the Clinical Negligence Department in the London office. She has considerable experience in assisting families with inquests that relate to deaths in hospital or care homes, where medical negligence is suspected.

She has been instructed on Article 2 inquests, inquests with juries and complicated medical inquests where numerous experts have been instructed. Where necessary she will make submissions on the Coroner’s power to issue Prevention of Future Deaths reports. Her inquest role combined with subsequent civil claims ensures that she is a specialist on Fatal Accident Act Claims. She is recognised in both UK Chambers & Partners and Legal 500.

In addition to her role in the Inquest team Lynda has a caseload of complex clinical negligence matters which include cerebral palsy, brain injuries, spinal injuries and cauda equina claims.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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