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Medical Negligence

Comment: Why has it taken so long to detect sepsis?

Written by Christian Beadell, Partner & Head of Legal Strategy & Ops


November 3, 2022

Senior Medical Negligence Solicitor, Christian Beadell has concerns ambulance services are not detecting sepsis.

Christian’s comments are in response to the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) announcing software limitations mean some sepsis cases are being missed by call handlers.

As a result, the EEAS is working on a strategy to identify sepsis sooner, but Christian wants NHS officials to improve overall awareness.

The announcement that the EEAS has just began a procedure to detect sepsis is extremely concerning.

The question is, why has this not been done sooner?

Most cases develop within the community, so it is crucial for the call handlers to recognise sepsis fast.

Medical experts recognise that this is not a new problem because 37,000 deaths were linked to sepsis in 2016.

Consequently, Christian has concerns that other ambulance services are more proactive in raising awareness.

In 2017, the West Midlands Ambulance service spearheaded a sepsis awareness campaign to ensure effective and timely diagnosis.

It is extremely important that all ambulance services have a coherent policy to tackle this increasing problem.

Sepsis, short for Septicemia, occurs when bacteria from another infection enters the blood stream and starts to attack vital organs.

As a consequence, symptoms are often misjudged as the flu or a chesty cough.

But sepsis can become a life-threatening complication.

Sepsis symptoms in older children and adults

Early symptoms of sepsis include:

  • A high temperature or a low body temperature.
  • Chills and shivering.
  • A fast heartbeat.
  • Problems or changes to your breathing.
  • Feeling or acting differently from normal – you do not seem your usual self.

There is also an association between sepsis and meningitis.

For instance, the first symptoms of meningitis are often fever, vomiting, a headache and feeling unwell.

Further advice on treating sepsis and recognising the dangers can be found on the NHS’ website.