The NHS is failing to adequately diagnose and treat patients suffering from the life threatening condition sepsis, the parliamentary health service ombudsman will say in a report later this week, HSJ has been told.
On Friday the ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor, will highlight the poor care of sepsis patients, a condition which kills 37,000 people a year. It will be the first ever clinical report produced by her office.
The document will detail 10 stories of individual patients, all of whom died as a result of failings in their treatment, calling for systemic improvements in the way sepsis is approached by the NHS and better training and awareness among healthcare professionals.
Dame Julie told HSJ she hoped to publish further clinical reports in the future. She has previously indicated she wants her office to broaden its approach to systemic failings from its traditional role of investigating complaints about public services.
The UK Sepsis Trust, the Royal College of Physicians and the College of Emergency Medicine have all contributed to the report, which will be released on Friday, World Sepsis Day.
Sepsis is the body’s response to an infection and can lead to shock, organ failure and death if it is not treated quickly. It is estimated that annually the condition costs the NHS £2bn and better treatment could save 15,000 lives.
Dame Julie said sepsis patients deserved better from the NHS.
“We want complaining to make a difference and the families that complained to us want to prevent what happened to them happening to others, they want the system to learn from their experience,” she said.
“The report focuses on 10 complaints we investigated about patients with severe sepsis who did not receive the treatment they urgently needed. In every case, tragically, the patient died. In some cases, with better care and treatment, they may have survived.
“We know it is not easy to spot the early signs of sepsis, but if we learn from these complaints and work to improve diagnosis and provide rapid treatment, then lives can be saved.”
She said the the issue of sepsis had been selected because it repeatedly was a focus in complaints from patients and families.
Ahead of the report’s publication, the Department of Health, NHS England and professional royal colleges have committed to act on the recommendations.