A few weeks back I was invited to the Senedd for world Sepsis day. The event was organised by Terence Canning who champions the cause of sepsis in Wales. Terence lost his brother to sepsis. He shares his story here.
At the event another story was told, about a young girl who had also died. Her parents were there to bear witness in the hope that their loss might be given at least some meaning by encouraging health care professionals to be more alert to the early signs of sepsis.
Terence is a much valued contributor to our Leading Improvements in Patient Safety Programme and his story never fails to remind all present just how devastating a missed opportunity can be.
It is estimated that sepsis kills 37,000 people each year in the UK. It is thought that more than a third of the deaths could potentially be prevented.
So what is sepsis? It is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection starts to damage its own tissues and organs. Unfortunately infections which can cause sepsis are common ones like pneumonia, water and wound infections or bites and problems like burst ulcers.
Sepsis is very treatable but hinges on early identification. There is a set of treatments called the ‘Sepsis Six’ which doctors and nurses can administer which will save lives. But the key remains early recognition that a patient may be developing sepsis.
As I mingled with the people at the Senedd it was clear that we in Cardiff and Vale have many experts in this field, one of whom, we have recently appointed as our Sepsis Clinical lead. Dr Paul Morgan is absolutely passionate about improving outcomes in this area. The key remains however early recognition.
What can we do about early recognition?
I have an idea.
I don’t think the general public know what sepsis is. But I do think people know what blood poisoning is. So how about using a term that people understand? It may not be scientifically accurate but it is something that people have heard about.
If we use a term that people understand maybe we can encourage people to be on the look out for signs.
Do you think there is mileage in adopting a more easily understood term to help us educate the public?
I’d be interested in you views.