September 11, 2020

World Sepsis Day – what you need to know


With World Sepsis Day upon us, we are hearing a lot about sepsis in the media at the moment. According to the UK Sepsis Trust, every three seconds someone in the world dies of sepsis. I can’t image there are many of us who have not been affected by sepsis in some way or another, in fact two members of our own team have experienced it both first-hand and in their family.

What is World Sepsis Day?

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition where the body’s response to infection starts to destroy the body itself. Early recognition and treatment of sepsis can save lives.

World Sepsis Day was initiated by the Global Sepsis Alliance in 2012 and now takes place annually, on 13 September, to raise awareness of sepsis across the world.

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

According to the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE), the symptoms of sepsis can include:

  • slurred speech or confusion
  • blue, pale or blotchy skin
  • a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it
  • a raised heart rate
  • a raised breathing rate
  • not having passed urine.

If you have a suspected infection and are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should take yourself to A&E.

How should sepsis be treated?

The guidelines for the management of sepsis say that, once in hospital, a person with suspected sepsis should:

  • be reviewed immediately
  • have blood taken to look for signs of infection
  • be monitored regularly
  • be given antibiotics within one hour
  • be given fluids if they are at high risk of illness or showing more severe signs of sepsis.

Our experience of sepsis

At RWK Goodman, we work with adults and children who have been affected by a delay in recognising and treating sepsis. We have recently won compensation on behalf of two women who contracted sepsis after the birth of their babies.

B’s Story

The first lady, B, developed a swollen and painful perineum after giving birth to her baby. She had a blood test which showed that her white blood cells were raised which is a sign of infection. Her breathing rate and heart rate was higher than usual. Although she was reviewed by a doctor, she was not given any antibiotics and she was discharged from the hospital.

Less than 24 hours after she was discharged from the hospital, B was readmitted by ambulance. By this time she was in severe pain in her abdomen and was incredibly unwell. She had to undergo surgery to have a total hysterectomy and remained in intensive care for nearly two weeks.

Had B’s symptoms of sepsis been recognised before she was discharged, she would have been given antibiotics much earlier and would have avoided the hysterectomy.

M’s Story

M has a similar story. Following the birth of her baby, M was discharged from hospital. Over the following five days she was seen three times by her community midwife and on each occasion she had a raised heart rate and a painful perineum but the midwife did not recognise that M might have an infection and did not arrange for M to be reviewed by a doctor.

M then started to deteriorate rapidly. She developed diarrhoea and had severe abdominal pain and difficulty in passing urine. Her husband called an ambulance and by the time the ambulance arrived, she was barely able to walk.

On arrival to the hospital, M was given intravenous antibiotics and just like B, had to have a hysterectomy. Had the midwife recognised the signs of infection M would have avoided the hysterectomy and would have been able to have more children.

The stories of these women remind us of how serious sepsis can be and of the importance of World Sepsis Day in raising awareness of sepsis.


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