This article was published on July 20th, 2016
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence has released guidelines for medics to raise the potential threat level of sepsis to that of a heart attack. The report advises that if a medical professional suspects a patient has sepsis then it must be treated as an emergency in the same way as heart attack.
The health watchdog has done this in response to approximately 44,000 deaths in the UK which were linked to complications caused by sepsis and medical experts claim that up to 30% of these deaths could have been avoided if the sepsis had been treated with more urgency and more effectively.
Sepsis is when the body’s immune system over reacts to an infection and then starts to turn on the host and attack healthy tissue. When we cut our finger or get a chest infection, our immune system kicks in to kill off the bacteria and then it retreats ready for the next bug or germ that enters the body. Sepsis, if not diagnosed in time can, lead to multiple organ failure and death which is why the medical profession need to keep it as a high priority consideration when assessing symptoms.
Sepsis symptoms are not straight forward as it is similar to common viral illnesses. Patients who have suffered from sepsis usually present with rapid breathing and feeling generally unwell and the guidelines are set to ensure that the question ‘is this sepsis?’ is at the forefront of any diagnosis just like heart conditions and chest pains.
A Professor from the health watchdog told the BBC: “The problem with those patients who died unnecessarily of sepsis is that staff did not think about it soon enough.
“This is complicated medicine.
“It requires a depth of thought and experience and a way of examining patients which isn’t always there – particularly because of time pressures and partly because we have got used to implementing guidelines without thinking.”
The NHS national director of patient safety, said: “Time and time again, and is some cases tragically too late, we see that some children could have received better care if healthcare providers worked with parents to understand and treat deterioration in health.
“There have been far too many cases covered in the media on the failure to treat sepsis that have highlighted the sad and frustrating instances of parents repeatedly flagging concerns about their children.”
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