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UK sepsis deaths higher than other developed countries but falling

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Sepsis-related deaths in the UK have fallen in the past three decades but continue to be above average for well-off countries, according to a new study.

The research, which examined trends in sepsis death rates over 30 years in more than 30 countries, found some had made spectacular progress in reducing the number of deaths, while mortality rates continued to rise elsewhere.

“Overall, we observed a decrease in reported sepsis-related mortality”

Study authors

In the UK sepsis death rates were found to have dropped over the three decades from 1985 to 2015. However, progress was below average and disappointing compared with some other nations.

The study saw researchers from the US and UK look at World Health Organization mortality data on 34 countries from Europe, Australasia and north America.

Their analysis – presented at the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine – annual found sepsis death rates among men in the UK dropped from almost 50 per 100,000 in 1985 to 40.3 per 100,000 in 2015.

However, this is still much higher than the average 2015 rate of 27.1 deaths per 100,000 across all countries included in the study. Among women in the UK, sepsis deaths fell from 40.2 to 35.4 per 100,000 – compared with an average of 19.6 across all countries.

The researchers found some countries had seen a dramatic drop in sepsis mortality rates. In Finland sepsis deaths dropped by nearly 81% among men and nearly 80% in women, while Iceland saw mortality rates decrease by around 76% for both and New Zealand saw rates in men drop by 70%.

In Ireland – one of the UK’s closest neighbours – sepsis deaths fell by nearly 69% among men and by 62% among women. But the reductions in the UK were far more modest with a fall of only 17% in men and 12% in women from 1985 to 2015.

“There remains significant variability between health systems with respect to trends in sepsis-related mortality”

Study authors

Other countries such as Denmark, Greece and Lithuania saw sepsis mortality rates increase over the 30-year period. Sepsis deaths in Lithuania increased by nearly 40% among men and by 23% among women, while Malta saw a 43% increase in sepsis deaths among women.

The study authors also found differences in mortality between men and women in almost all countries. With the exception of Australia, Austria and New Zealand, all countries had higher rates of sepsis mortality in men than in women.

The study was carried out by Dr Justin Salciccioli from Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Dr Matthew Komorowski from Imperial College London.

They said further research was needed to examine the reasons behind different trends in sepsis mortality rates.

“Overall, we observed a decrease in reported sepsis-related mortality across the majority of analysed nations between 1985 and 2015,” said the authors.

“However, there remains significant variability between health systems with respect to trends in sepsis-related mortality and between sexes in some countries,” they said.

“System-level and population-level factors may contribute to these differences and additional investigations are necessary to further explain these trends,” they added.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • that is partially to due to appalling GP services and standards!
    I’ve been misdiagnosed multiple times by the GP having serious condition that required surgical intervention.
    On one occasion the GP told me that he was too tired and had too big of a headache to figure out what was wrong with me, and said that if I started vomiting I should go to A&E.
    On few occasions I was told that I was too young to be sick and that I was depressed.
    And I heard not once: ‘go to A&E’.
    I’m both Critical care and A&E nurse and the number of times I saw people die because their GP misdiagnosed them is countless.
    Also how in a developed country the GP practice does not offer the most basic tests, such as ECG, echo and blood tests that one does not have to wait weeks for, this makes the GPs miss forget to follow up and notice when something is not right on the tests!
    General practitioners do not have enough training, knowledge, time, staff and the clinics lack basic resources to provide care that is expected in a first world country.

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