September 10, 2020
September 13th, 2020 is an important day. It marks the 8th anniversary of World Sepsis Day which is an initiative that was started by the Global Sepsis Alliance, a not for profit charity. Its mission is to provide global leadership in the worldwide battle against Sepsis. Its stated vision is of helping to achieve a world that is free of Sepsis.
According to the World Sepsis Day website, the idea behind an annual World Sepsis Day, is to provide an ‘opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against sepsis.’ However, it is also an opportunity to raise awareness about what Sepsis is.
What type of illness is it? How big a problem is Sepsis? Why is it such a problem?
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis, also known as septicaemia and blood poisoning, is an adverse response to infection. It is life threatening. It occurs when the body’s response to infection is so extreme that the infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs.
If the symptoms of Sepsis are not spotted and acted upon quickly by doctors, then it can lead to septic shock which in turn can result in multiple organ failure and death.
The infection that is the root cause of Sepsis often starts off as a common and preventable infection originating in parts of the body such as the abdomen, urinary tract, lungs or pelvis. It can also be caused by an infection from a skin wound.
In a clinical setting, such as a hospital, infections may be spread by invasive interventions and devices. The most common way that this happens is when a patient is fitted with an intravenous catheter ( a device used to administer medications, other fluids or blood products).
How big a problem is Sepsis?
It is difficult to estimate how many people suffer from Sepsis every year or how many deaths from Sepsis there are globally. However the results of a study reported in the medical journal, The Lancet, in January 2020, estimated that there were as many as 49 million cases of Sepsis and 11 million deaths from the illness, every year.
More locally, in the UK, the UK Sepsis Trust reports that 245,000 people suffer from sepsis each year whilst 48,000 people lose their lives in sepsis related illnesses. Put into context, this meant that Sepsis is responsible for the deaths of more people each year than bowel, breast and pancreatic cancer put together.
Even if a patient survives Sepsis; they can be left with ongoing debilitating physical and psychological symptoms. Post-sepsis syndrome (PSS) can last between 6-18 months or longer. The physical symptoms of PSS can include extreme fatigue, weakness and repeated infections. There may also be psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression or event Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These symptoms can make it difficult for the individual to return to work or their usual hobbies and activities.
Why does there need to be a Sepsis Awareness Day though?
Despite the number of new cases that happen each year and the number of fatalities from Sepsis, it is still an illness that many people have never heard of.
Of those who have heard of it, there are many who know little or nothing about what Sepsis is, how prevalent it is, how relatively easily it can occur or how easily it could be prevented.
- Lack of knowledge means that in some cases the symptoms of Sepsis are not being recognised and may be mistaken for other ailments, by the loved ones of those in the early stage of the illness.
- Lack of knowledge means that people are not aware of the fact that Sepsis can be prevented by clean care and vaccination. (Immunisation can be targeted at certain viruses that commonly cause Sepsis)
- Lack of knowledge is the reason that Sepsis kills more than many cancers combined in this country.
Raising awareness and education about an illness that has been labelled the ‘silent killer', will lead to less instances of Sepsis and less deaths from it. That is why World Sepsis Day is so important.
Sepsis in the NHS
Despite numerous initiatives people are still dying from Sepsis as a result of the failure of healthcare professionals to diagnose or promptly act on suspected cases of Sepsis. In 2019 NHS England produced a document called ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ with the aim of significantly reducing the numbers of Sepsis cases caused by failures of medical professionals, to intervene at an early enough stage.
Things are improving gradually but campaigns like Sepsis Awareness Day can only be a force for good in ensuring that we all improve our knowledge of this silent and hidden killer. That applies to lay members of the public and medical experts alike.
At Spencers Solicitors we act for clients who have been affected by a failure by healthcare professionals to diagnose or properly treat cases of Sepsis and we assist those clients in taking legal action to obtain sepsis negligence compensation from the appropriate authority. For further information please contact a member of our medical negligence team on 08000 93 00 94.