30 October 2023

The NHS has failed to embed improvements in sepsis care in spite of a series of investigations, the UK’s health ombudsman has alleged.

Delays in diagnosis and treatment, poor communication and record keeping, and missed chances for follow up care all still happen, according to ombudsman Rob Behrens.

Behrens issued a new report on the subject this week, a decade after publishing a report entitled “a time to act”. He alleges that lessons have not been learnt.

He said: “I’ve heard some harrowing stories about sepsis through our investigations, and it frustrates and saddens me that the same mistakes we highlighted ten years ago are still occurring. It is clear that lessons are not being learned.

“The NHS needs to listen to patients and their families when they raise concerns. It needs to be sepsis aware. We know early detection and treatment is crucial. It is time to make sure complaints count, and patients’ voices are used to shape action on sepsis that is urgently needed.”

Behrens said there are “many” cases where patients might not have died if they or their families’ concerns had been heeded.

Dr Ron Daniels, Chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said the findings were “incredibly disheartening”.

He said: “Although progress was certainly made in the years following the report up until the time of the pandemic, not only is it clear that there is significant opportunity for greater improvement but we are also gravely concerned that attention to sepsis is being afforded lower priority in the wake of the pandemic and in an already burdened NHS.

“With sepsis claiming an estimated 48,000 lives annually in the UK, this report demonstrates that there is an urgent need to establish sepsis as a key priority for healthcare – to get this right will also enable a better approach to antimicrobial stewardship.”

Source: Health Ombudsman


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