East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, (ELHT) which includes Royal Blackburn and Burnley General Hospital, has recently reported a significant increase in the rates of sepsis at the Trust.

The freedom of information request response already comes of the back of a Panorama report, citing ELHT as one of the worst Trusts in the country for the management of sepsis. The request recently related to the sepsis rates in the maternity unit and recorded that there were 29 incidents in 2017 as opposed to 8 in 2011.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a rare but serious condition, caused by the way the body responds to germs and infection. If it is identified early then it can be treated with antibiotics, but serious cases will result in admission to ICU and if untreated, can lead to death.

Sepsis symptoms include:

• Temperature
• Breathlessness
• Slurring speech
• No passing of urine
• Mottled skin or discolouration in skin tone

Sepsis is often diagnosed using simple monitoring of temperature, heart rate and breathing rate. Blood tests can also test for sepsis indicators.

What are the guidelines for treating sepsis?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced extensive guidelines on how sepsis should be managed and treated, including staying alert to the signs and symptoms of an infection and asking yourself, “could this be sepsis?”

People with sepsis sometimes have non-specific, non-localised symptoms such as simply feeling very unwell as opposed to having a high temperature. Healthcare professionals are also advised to listen to any concerns expressed by the person and their family or carers including changes from usual behaviour. It is particularly important to take extra care assessing people who are unable to give a good history due to language barriers or communication problems.

Once it is established that the diagnosis may be an infection, a possible source of infection should be identified along with any factors that increase the risk of sepsis. Anything that may be a cause for clinical concern, for example, new onset of abnormal behaviour, circulation, or respiration, should also be noted.

The guidelines also provide information about the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis in those going through cancer treatment, and pregnant women.

The full guidelines can be viewed here.

I think the figures released from ELHT are worrying and perhaps reflect a more extensive problem with maternity services at the Trust. We have received a large number of enquiries from women who have not only had sepsis, but other significant injuries as a result of attending the maternity unit.

The UK Sepsis Trust, is a charity mainly constituted of Doctors and Nurses who deal with sepsis. Their website aims to educate and also support those who have been affected by sepsis.

If you require any legal advice as a result of being exposed to sepsis or any other hospital error, contact Farley’s specialist team who can provide expert, confidential advice on your situation. Call 0845 287 0939 or email us here.

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