Sepsis is claiming too many lives as hospitals are making the same mistakes as a decade ago, ombudsman warns


  • Delays in diagnosis and treatment are among the failures in the new report

Sepsis is still claiming too many lives as hospitals are making the same mistakes as a decade ago, the health ombudsman has warned.

Rob Behrens said there had been some progress on diagnosis and treatment since his office published its landmark Time to Act report in 2013.

But his investigations have revealed some lessons have still not been learnt and repeated mistakes are costing lives.

Delays in diagnosis and treatment, poor communication and record-keeping, and missed opportunities for follow-up care are among the failures found.

A new report by the ombudsman – Spotlight on Sepsis: Your Stories, Your Rights – concludes ‘significant improvements are urgently needed to avoid more fatalities’. 

Delays in diagnosis and treatment, poor communication and record-keeping, and missed opportunities for follow-up care are among the failures found

It says there are many tragic cases where patients have died but the outcome could have been different if they, or their families, had been listened to.

According to the UK Sepsis Trust, about 48,000 deaths are attributed to sepsis each year.

Sepsis, known as the ‘silent killer’, strikes when an infection such as blood poisoning sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs. 

If caught early, the infection can be controlled by antibiotics before the body goes into overdrive. 

But early symptoms can be easily confused with more mild conditions, meaning it is difficult to diagnose.

And a patient can rapidly deteriorate, so quick diagnosis and treatment is vital.

The Mail’s End the Sepsis Scandal campaign helped to raise awareness of symptoms, in an attempt to reduce the number of missed cases. 

It led to the publication of NHS quality standards for sepsis, but the new report reveals there is still some way to go.

Sepsis, known as the 'silent killer', strikes when an infection such as blood poisoning sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs

Sepsis, known as the ‘silent killer’, strikes when an infection such as blood poisoning sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs

Mr Behrens said: ‘It frustrates and saddens me that the same mistakes we highlighted ten years ago are still occurring.

‘The NHS needs to listen to patients and their families when they raise concerns. It needs to be sepsis-aware.’

Melissa Mead, whose one-year-old son William died from sepsis in 2014 after concerns were dismissed by doctors, peer-reviewed the report.

She said: ‘I think this report, nine years on from William’s death, really lays bare the incidences of sepsis cases.

‘Too many lives are being lost in preventable circumstances.’

The Health Secretary has pledged to introduce ‘Martha’s rule’ to give patients the right to a second opinion.

Steve Barclay made his pledge after meeting Merope Mills, whose daughter Martha, 13, developed sepsis and died after doctors failed to admit her to intensive care.



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