With over 52,000 deaths a year in the UK (more than deaths from breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined) and more common than heart attacks, it is not surprising that sepsis has gathered increasing media coverage and been the subject of national campaigns in recent years.
The UK Sepsis Trust are one of the charities working to raise awareness of sepsis among the public and health care professionals. They aim to encourage early diagnosis to end preventable deaths from sepsis and improve outcomes for sepsis survivors. The charity's website estimates that earlier diagnosis and treatment across the UK would save at least 14,000 lives a year.
However, there are sadly still cases where diagnosis has been delayed or treatment has not been appropriate. The consequences of this can be devastating leading to organ failure, multiple amputations and death.
What is Sepsis?
The UK Sepsis Trust describes sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) as the immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury. Normally our immune system fights infection – but sometimes, for reasons we don’t yet understand, it attacks our body’s own organs and tissues. With early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics.
Sepsis can initially look like flu, a stomach bug or a chest infection. There is no one sign, and symptoms present differently between adults and children.
When is treatment for sepsis negligent?
The UK Sepsis Trust developed the “Sepsis 6” Protocol comprising a bundle of diagnostic and therapeutic tools which should be used in the first hour. Sepsis 6 has been shown to significantly reduce mortality. Guidance issued as part of the NHS long term plan to save thousands more lives requires hospital staff to alert senior doctors if patients with suspected sepsis do not respond to treatment within an hour. Every trust must take action to spot and treat sepsis with staff looking for sepsis at an early stage in patients coming to A&Es and those who are already on wards. Hospital teams should also take note of non-specific symptoms and concerns expressed by relatives and carers such as acute changes in behaviour. All of the guidance, literature and research surrounding sepsis points to early diagnosis and treatment as being the key to a better outcome.
If a hospital does not follow the guidance, which results in a delay in the patient receiving a diagnosis or treatment, then it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation.
The legal tests to be successful in a clinical negligence claim are:
- Breach of duty - meaning that no other responsible body of medical opinion would consider the treatment received to be acceptable;
- Causation - meaning that any unacceptable treatment has caused the patient additional pain, suffering or injury.
How Burnetts Can Help
Burnetts have specialist medical negligence solicitors, who are accredited by the specialist AvMA and law society panels, who can investigate your claim and help secure compensation.
The compensation awarded will be for the additional pain and suffering as a result of any substandard care, any past losses such as loss of earnings and also to cover any ongoing additional needs as a result of the negligence such as future loss of earnings, care, accommodation, aids and equipment.
We have access to specialist medical experts and barristers who can advise in your case and will aim to obtain compensation for you as quickly as possible. Where someone has sadly died, Burnetts also have expertise in dealing with claims on behalf of the estate of the deceased and any Inquesy. If the claim is on behalf of a protected party then our Court of Protection team will also be on hand to assist with the administration of compensation and navigating you through the whole process.
If you would like to speak to someone within our team to discuss whether you may have a clinical negligence claim then please contact our offices on 01228 552222.