Recorded cases of the potentially deadly infection sepsis are on the rise in Welsh NHS hospitals, new figures have revealed. In 2016-17, hospitals recorded a combined 12,589 sepsis cases compared to 11,457 in 2014-15 – an increase of 10%.
While the Welsh Conservatives describe these figures as a cause for concern, health boards say they suggest NHS staff are more aware of the symptoms and are getting better at treating it quickly. During the same three-year period, deaths from sepsis reduced by 5% from 1,740 in 2014-15 to 1,660 in 2016-17.
Sepsis, also referred to as blood poisoning or septicaemia, is a potentially life-threatening condition triggered by an infection or injury. The body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight the infection, which can reduce the blood supply to vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys. Without quick treatment, an infection can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
Angela Burns AM, Welsh Conservatives’ Shadow Health Secretary, was struck down with sepsis herself three years ago. She has called for mandatory sepsis awareness training for frontline NHS staff in a bid to reduce levels of infection. “Sepsis is one of the most awful of conditions and hits patients like a car crash. Very few people escape unscathed and yet it is entirely preventable which is so frustrating. A third of people who become infected with sepsis are likely to die, while a third survive but with life-changing injuries. And the other third, like myself, appear to have recovered on the surface but will carry the illness and its mental scars for years. Three years after becoming infected, I still suffer with bouts of depression and memory impairment. As chair of the cross-party group on sepsis, we will soon be publishing an action plan to combat this invidious infection, which as these figures show is on the rise. The plan will include recommendations including mandatory sepsis awareness training for frontline NHS staff, and to involve GPs much more closely with diagnosis and awareness.”
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