On several occasions over recent weeks I have found myself explaining to people what sepsis is, its symptoms and why it’s something that needs tackling. These conversations have taken place both in the office and also among friends.
This is not by chance of course, because September has been dubbed Sepsis Awareness Month and, more specifically, 13 September marked World Sepsis Day.
I have found myself warning how sepsis causes the body’s immune system to go into overdrive and can lead to organ failure and death. During such discussions, people have often asked whether the terms sepsis, septicaemia and blood poisoning mean the same thing – so there is clearly more work to do for the charities behind the awareness events.
“Sepsis is seemingly on the public’s radar, even if only on its edge”
But the fact that people are talking about it is a welcome start. Sepsis is seemingly on the public’s radar, even if only on its edge. It needs to be increasingly so as, according to latest figures, sepsis kills an estimated 37,000 people in England every year.
As I may have mentioned in a previous article – although I don’t apologise for doing so – a friend of mine died from sepsis not that long ago. She was of a similar age to me, had a young family and died within hours of infection, so I have a personal link to wanting to raise awareness.
As a result, this year we have run two news stories to mark the awareness drive – one positive and one negative.
The latter was centred on an investigation that concluded that nurses and other healthcare staff at a South Yorkshire hospital missed opportunities to save a young woman’s life from sepsis.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman determined that the death of 26-year-old Anna Hemmings at Doncaster Royal Infirmary could have been avoided if staff had provided the right treatment sooner.
The former, however, highlighted a nurse who has received national recognition for helping to dramatically improve sepsis care across Weston Area Health Trust.
James Merrell, lead nurse for deteriorating patient and sepsis, took action last year after noticing “unwarranted variation” in the trust’s rates of early detection and prompt treatment of the life-threatening condition.
Mr Merrell worked in partnership with a colleague to introduce awareness raising campaigns, staff training and new sepsis alert practices. Among other things, as part of the project, staff across all disciplines, including porters and receptionists, were offered new sepsis training.
A nursing leadership programme was created to empower nurses across the trust to take the lead in identifying and escalating patients who may have sepsis, and a multidisciplinary team was formed in a bid to provide a more united approach to sepsis care
“Both these stories have important messages about what can be achieved and what must be achieved in tackling sepsis”
As a result of these concentrated efforts, the use of the sepsis screening tool rose from 17% in September 2017 to 96% in January this year.
Both these stories have important messages about what can be achieved and what must be achieved in tackling sepsis. Inevitably, like most things, identifying and treating the condition are key.
These messages must get through to health and social care staff, and increasingly the public. Let’s please try and stop people dying unnecessarily from sepsis.