Thousands of Victims Eligible for Sepsis Claims

Thousands of Victims Eligible for Sepsis Claims
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam In: Medical Negligence

The UK’s health ombudsman has recently warned that high numbers of people are dying from sepsis due to mistakes that were highlighted more than 10 years ago. Rob Behrens, who handles NHS complaints, states that the main cause of the deaths is down to sepsis diagnosis and treatment delays.

If you or a loved one has received a delayed of misdiagnosis of sepsis, then you may be able to make a sepsis claim for compensation. At AWH, our team of medical negligence solicitors can help you with your case. Call us today on 0125 427 4000 or fill out our online form.

48,000 People Die Every Year from Sepsis-Related Illnesses

Of the 48,000 people that die every year from sepsis-related illnesses, the health ombudsman states thousands are preventable. To put this figure into perspective, sepsis kills more people than bowel cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and all road accidents combined.

In 2013, the ombudsman revealed that patients were not being diagnosed or treated fast enough. As a result, many patients were dying from sepsis which could have been prevented. Because, of the details revealed in the 2013 report, the ombudsman made a series of recommendations.

However, the ombudsman’s recent report reveals that despite some efforts to improve the number of sepsis deaths, “significant improvements” are urgently needed to prevent further deaths from occurring.

With 5 people dying every hour in the UK from sepsis, the NHS is now working towards improving the management of sepsis patients and reducing the delays.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis develops when the body’s immune system overreacts to an infection and attacks its own tissues and organs. It is known as the “hidden killer” due to being difficult to detect.

Symptoms can be like those of a flu. This includes severe breathlessness and a high fever. Further symptoms can include loss of consciousness, severe breathlessness, a high temperature, slurred speech, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, and severe muscle pain.

Ultimately, sepsis causes organ failure, meaning even survivors can be left with long-term damage and disability. According to UK Sepsis Trust statistics, 40% of survivors suffer from permanent injuries or complications.

How Do You Get Sepsis?

Sepsis can arise from nearly any infection entering the body. When bacteria or viruses infiltrate the body, such as through a cut, the body may initiate an intense reaction. Infections that progress to sepsis often start in the lungs or through the skin.

From the initial infection, sepsis can develop in adults and children in as little as 12 hours. This is why it is vital for there to be no delays and for medical professionals to spot symptoms as quickly as possible.

Reasons for Avoidable Sepsis Deaths

Mr Behrens discovered that a combination of factors attributed to the preventable sepsis deaths. These include delays in spotting and treating the condition early enough in hospitals. Furthermore, Mr Behrens, found issues regarding insufficient staff training, poor communication, poor record-keeping, and staff missing opportunities for follow-up care.

Unfortunately, this is a trend we are seeing over all aspects of NHS care. We cover this topic in our recent article on the latest NHS crisis figures. 

Case Studies: Series of Preventable Deaths

Mr Behrens highlights a series of deaths which he believes were preventable.

Among the deaths is that of a patient named in the report as Kath. Kath died at Blackpool Teaching Hospital Trust after being admitted with pneumonia just two weeks earlier.

After her death, it was revealed that medical notes showed sepsis was suspected. However, the clinical staff did not act upon this. If the clinical staff, acted on this note, her death might have been prevented.

The patient’s daughter said the report’s findings had left the family “grieving all over again”.

A second patient, identified as “Ms R” in the report, was victim to sepsis following her discharge from the hospital after undergoing bowel cancer surgery. Although she faced complications during her hospital stay, her recovery lacked proper monitoring.

The ombudsman determined that Ms R’s death might have been preventable had there been scheduled follow-up appointments. Mr. Behrens emphasised the importance of the NHS heeding concerns raised by patients and their families. Furthermore, he underscored the crucial need for NHS staff to be vigilant and knowledgeable about sepsis.

Sepsis Needs to Become a Key Priority

The UK Sepsis Trust states that sepsis needs to become a “key priority” for healthcare in the UK.

Dr Ron Daniels, the charity’s CEO, 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 emburdened NHS.”

In a recent statement, the ombudsman expressed a desire for the implementation of “Martha’s rule,” a provision granting patients the right to seek a second medical opinion regarding their hospital care. The NHS is set to introduce this rule, named in honour of Martha Mills, a 13-year-old who tragically lost her life to sepsis after a cycling accident in 2021.

Read more about the new NHS Children’s Health Warning System.

When Can I Make a Sepsis Claim

Although not all cases of sepsis are because of medical negligence, you can often make a claim if:

  • A preventable infection was obtained in hospital or during an operation.
  • A misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis of an infection resulted in sepsis.
  • There were clear warning signs of sepsis which medical professionals did not pick up on.
  • An infection from a foreign object such as a catheter caused the sepsis.

How Long Do I Have to Make a Sepsis Claim?

In most cases you have three years from the date you became aware of the negligence to make a claim. After this three-year window, you are unlikely to be able to bring forward a claim. Therefore, it’s important to seek the aid of a medical negligence solicitor as soon as you become aware of any negligence.

Exceptions exist to the limitation period, particularly when the individual involved is under 18. In such instances, the 3-year limitation period commences only upon their 18th birthday, allowing for claims to be made any time before this point.

Determining time limits can be challenging in certain cases, so if you’re uncertain, it’s advisable to consult with a member of our team today.

Will My Sepsis Claim Go to Court?

Typically, sepsis claims do not necessitate a court appearance for compensation. In 2021, slightly over 3% of compensation claims underwent court resolution.

Most claims are successfully settled out of court, with both parties reaching an agreed-upon settlement amount. Court involvement arises only in instances of disagreement regarding the settlement amount or determining fault for the claim.

Sepsis Compensation

Compensation can be used to improve the quality of life of those affected. Therefore, the amount awarded is designed to cover the costs of:

  • Care
  • Treatment
  • Loss of earnings
  • Accommodation changes
  • Specialist equipment
  • Emotional and physical pain and suffering

Selecting Expert Medical Negligence Solicitors for a Sepsis Claim

Selecting the appropriate solicitors for your sepsis claim is crucial to its success. Therefore, it is essential to have an experienced medical negligence solicitor handling your case, as this can contribute to a smoother claim process and potentially result in a more substantial compensation amount.

AWH Solicitors is recognised by The Legal 500 for its expertise in serious personal injury claims and medical negligence claims, including those related to sepsis. Furthermore, we handle all our sepsis claims on a no-win-no-fee basis. Contact one of our experienced solicitors today to discuss your situation and determine if you have a valid claim.

Read our most recent settlements here.

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