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'Awareness of sepsis is key to cutting deaths'

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Press reports about sepsis-related deaths are numerous. But while sepsis kills more people than bowel, breast and colon cancer combined, many of these deaths are avoidable.

In recent years, efforts have been made to raise awareness of sepsis but the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death report on sepsis notes that some patients are still receiving unsatisfactory care.

The report identifies issues with awareness and decision making by nurses and doctors, rather than the way services are organised or the availability of equipment. While the focus is on mortality associated with sepsis, there is also a problem with morbidity. A fifth of patients studied were discharged with evidence of complications. This has implications for discharge planning, and physical and psychological support in the community.

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