These days, if we or our family feel unwell, there are a range of medical options available to choose from.
If an ambulance is needed, we can ring 999. We are asked to think twice before visiting our over-stretched A and E departments. Could we maybe wait and see our GP? And don’t forget the friendly local pharmacist can offer advice and prescribe a range of medicines. The NHS 111 service is available when you need medical help fast but it is not an emergency. We are asked to apply some common sense in who we choose to ask for help.
But, what exactly constitutes an emergency? How do I, an unqualified person determine whether my loved ones are a bit poorly or seriously ill?
Before my son started school in 1997, I had never heard of meningitis. Like many mothers I learned the signs and symptoms to watch out for from a little card. It is this sort of awareness campaign that educates and informs ordinary people, of health risks and illnesses which may affect our family’s health.
There is now a great need for another nationwide campaign. Sepsis (also known as septicaemia or blood poisoning) has been claiming the lives of too many people. Early diagnosis can save lives but not enough is known about this silent killer.
Sepsis affects about 150,000 people in the UK every year and is responsible for the deaths of 44,000 people annually. That is more than breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer combined.
This life threatening condition occurs when the body becomes overwhelmed with infection, but it can start with a simple bite or cut. Sepsis is caused by the way the body responds to infection, such as bacteria, injuring its own organs and tissues. We all come into contact with germs and bacteria every day without becoming unwell. On occasions the body reacts abnormally to an infection and this can cause sepsis.Initial signs to watch out for include; a very high (or very low) temperature, racing heartbeat, rapid breathing or confusion. If a person has two or more of those indicators, then medical advice should be sought if you are concerned. Other indications include; cold, pale or mottled skin, loss of consciousness, not passing urine, shivering, muscle pain, slurred speech or severe breathlessness.
Recognising sepsis can be difficult as in the early stages symptoms may be mistaken for flu. If caught early, the outlook is good for the majority of patients. Sepsis can be treated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids but early detection is vital.
The UK Sepsis Trust (UKST) was established in 2012. The charity’s objective is to save lives and support those affected by sepsis by instigating political change and raising public awareness.
Dr Ron Daniels, CEO of UKST said: “There’s a need for professional awareness and a certain standard of education and training as there’s a gap in knowledge. There’s also a need to raise public awareness. We are contacted by people who have come to harm having sat at home not knowing what to do.”
The trust believe that once sepsis is accepted as a medical emergency and as a clinical priority for the NHS then up to 12,500 lives can be saved every year.
Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton joined forces with The UK Sepsis Trust in 2012 to form an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on sepsis to raise awareness of the condition and to increase effective treatments.
In her blog Mrs Newton said: “The APPG has made real progress over the past two years raising awareness of Sepsis and securing a range of actions to prevent avoidable deaths.” Mrs Newton wants a treatment plan known as the ‘Sepsis Six’ to be more widely adopted. “The Sepsis Six can be administered simply by a nurse and reduces the risk of dying by one half if delivered within an hour of Sepsis developing.”
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are currently developing a set of guidelines for health professionals working within the National Health Service (NHS). Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for clinical practice at NICE said: “We want all healthcare professionals to see sepsis as an immediate life-threatening condition and make sure there are systems in place across the NHS for it to be recognised and treated as an emergency.” Publication is anticipated to be in July 2016.
Progress is being made in raising awareness of this devastating condition, but it takes time, money and dedication to accomplish change on a national scale. For more information on Sepsis visit the UK Sepsis Trust here.