Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

Sepsis Awareness – NHS Mistakes led to Misdiagnosis and Tragic Death

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 07/07/2014

Dame Julie Mellor, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman found that a 3 hour delay cost Sam Morrish, 3, from Devon, his life. He came to the hospital with what is now known to be sepsis, also known as blood poisoning. Lifesaving antibiotics were failed to be administered because of a misdiagnosis. Much more needs to be done to make people aware of, and recognise sepsis.

What was Missed?

Sam was vomiting blood, and his mother described to an NHS call handler that his vomit contained brown lumps. This is often called 'coffee ground vomit', and if this occurs, you should seek immediate medical attention. The first mistake made was that the call handler did not pick up on this.

When he arrived at the hospital, there was a 3 hour delay between entering the hospital, and receiving the antibiotics, which, according to the Ombudsman, would have saved his life if administered in time.

On the radio speaking about their experiences, Sam's parents stated that they carried out the usual checks for meningitis, but were not even aware of sepsis as a possibility. This appeared to be the case with many of the hospital staff. In addition to health service organisation failings, they also feel they have been failed by the complaints system itself, describing it as “closed and unaccountable”.

The tragedy that led to Sam's death is not an isolated one, Amy Carter, 15, fell ill with multiple illnesses, and after being sent home by NHS doctors, developed sepsis, which caused the multiple organ failure that killed her. Amy's death also raised questions as to how the condition was not diagnosed.

In the US, the problem has been recognised in light of the death of Rory Staunton, 12. The foundation set up in his memory, the "Rory Staunton Foundation" is running a forum on the condition. The forum is called, "A Fresh Approach to a Persistent Problem" and will take place on 17th September 2014.

Sepsis, Septicaemia, or Blood Poisoning – The Signs

Sepsis is known for developing very quickly and as we have seen, it's a life threatening condition.

Early symptoms can include:

  • Fever, high temperature, or chills and shivering
  • A fast heartbeat and/or fast breathing

If the illness progresses, you may experience:

  • Extremely low blood pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Cold, clammy, pale or mottled skin

Because sepsis can develop quickly and aggressively, frontline medical staff, from call handlers to A&E, need to be able to identify patients who potentially have sepsis.

Those who are left feeling that they or a loved one didn't receive the necessary treatment in time can complain to the hospital, and also speak to a solicitor about their options. Measures such as these can instigate a change in hospital practices, meaning that more lives can be saved in the future, as well as the potential to provide compensation in an attempt to put right a wrong.

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