HSJ investigation shows more needs to be done to reduce preventable sepsis deaths

A recent article published by the HSJ uncovered a concerning trend regarding sepsis care in the UK, revealing systemic failings that have contributed to over 30 preventable deaths in the last five years alone.

UKST Founder & Joint CEO Dr Ron Daniels said: “This alarming revelation underscores the urgent need for renewed efforts to address the shortcomings in diagnosing and treating this life-threatening condition.”

Coroner reports and NHS data have shed light on numerous instances where systemic problems with diagnosing and treating sepsis have led to tragic outcomes, including the deaths of nine children. Many of these deaths were deemed avoidable, highlighting the critical need for improved protocols and procedures to prevent such tragedies.

Despite significant progress made in sepsis care during the previous decade, recent data indicates a troubling reversal of this trend, with a decline in the quality of care provided to sepsis patients. Prompt antibiotic treatment, a crucial aspect of sepsis care, has seen a decline in rates, indicating a failure of the national push to improve sepsis care.

Repeated shortcomings highlighted by coroners include delays or failures to administer antibiotics, inadequate adherence to protocols for identifying sepsis, and inaccurate or missed observations. These systemic failures have contributed to heartbreaking losses, such as the cases of Maddy Lawrence and Nuel-Junior Dzernjo, whose deaths could have been prevented with timely and appropriate intervention.

The ongoing crisis in emergency departments further complicates the identification and treatment of sepsis, making it even more challenging for healthcare professionals to recognise and respond to this condition in its early stages. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine president, Adrian Boyle, has emphasised the importance of skilled early clinical assessment in improving outcomes for sepsis patients.

Health ombudsman Rob Behrens has also expressed concern over the repetition of mistakes in sepsis care, calling for a more robust approach to addressing these issues. He stressed the need for improved dialogue between clinicians, patients, and other healthcare professionals to ensure better outcomes for sepsis patients.

UKST’s Dr Ron Daniels, has echoed these concerns, emphasising the need for designated board members for sepsis improvement and highlighting the importance of monitoring the quality of care for sepsis patients. He has also called attention to changes in NICE guidelines, emphasising the importance of timely antibiotic treatment in improving outcomes for sepsis patients.

It is evident that more needs to be done to address the systemic failings in sepsis care highlighted by the recent HSJ feature, and additional recent reports from the University of Manchester and National Child Mortality Database, which highlighted healthcare inequalities in sepsis recognition and care, suggesting that much more needs to be done to unilaterally improve outcomes.

As an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of sepsis and improving care for those affected by this condition, the UK Sepsis Trust remains committed to advocating for better protocols, increased training, and enhanced support for healthcare professionals to ensure that preventable sepsis deaths become a thing of the past.

If you’re a clinical professional, access our free sepsis tools here.