Missed sepsis diagnosis costs lives

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The recent story regarding the death of one-year-old William Mead and its implications around out-of-hours healthcare should give us all pause for thought.

An NHS report into William’s case sheds some light on how a compendium of errors resulted in a failure to spot that William was suffering from sepsis.

At least 37,000 people are killed by sepsis each year. This ought to worry us, as it is both detectable and treatable in the vast majority of cases.

Individual 111 call handlers aren’t medically qualified, so we shouldn’t expect them to diagnose conditions like sepsis over the phone. Clearly, improvements to the service are possible. Staff can be trained to know when to escalate a case up to someone capable of providing a medical opinion.

Delay increases risk

As the report suggests, had the call been passed on to a medical expert, they could potentially have saved William’s life. After all, data shows that the risk of death from sepsis increases by 7.6% for each hour that intervention is delayed.

The 111 service weren’t the only ones to blame though. William’s GP failed to record information in his file which was relevant to a sepsis diagnosis. Similarly, the out of hours GP service didn’t have access to his primary care records.

Failure to share information which could lead to spotting problems like sepsis constitutes a real, avoidable risk. The health service needs to get to grips with this to prevent future sepsis deaths, as our case study shows.

Missed sepsis diagnosis: client story

Mr W was 64 when he died in hospital as a result of sepsis. His daughter came to us as she felt that, despite her father displaying recognisable early warning signs of sepsis, his GP failed to recognise sepsis when he should have done. As a result, Mr W’s condition had deteriorated considerably by the time he was actually admitted to hospital.

Richard Harries, clinical negligence solicitor, handled the case. He found cause to suggest that the missed sepsis diagnosis was entirely avoidable and a significant factor in Mr W’s death. The case settled out of court for over £100,000.

Commenting on today’s news, Richard said:

“It’s incredibly difficult to comment on a case such as William’s without knowing the full details. However, what is clear, is that his case once again highlights how easily a diagnosis of sepsis can be overlooked and the tragic consequences that follow.”

Further information

If you’ve suffered as a result of a sepsis misdiagnosis or you’re worried about the treatment you or a loved one has received, contact our medical negligence solicitors in Bristol.

Our specialist clinical negligence solicitors have vast experience in pursuing compensation claims for sepsis. To discuss your case in confidence, call us on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.


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