News of new sepsis guidance, which will see NHS Trusts fined if they fail to meet sepsis targets, has been met with caution by a leading medical negligence lawyer.

The guidance, part of the NHS Long Term Plan, has been drawn up by The Royal College of Physicians, The Royal College of GPs, NICE and the UK Sepsis Trust in a bid to reduce the 37,000 annual deaths from the condition which has been dubbed “the silent killer”.

“Imposing financial penalties on an already cash strapped NHS may not be the right solution.’ said medical negligence solicitor Diane Rostron.

“It concerns me that fining hospitals will only ultimately further reduce the quality of patient care and patient safety. Fining an NHS Trust for failing to follow the guidance means that a patient has already been left significantly injured or has suffered an avoidable death. Prevention must be a priority.

“We have represented several families recently whose loved ones suffered premature deaths as a result of medical staff failing to diagnose sepsis, in some cases failing to listen to the family who recognised the symptoms of this dangerous condition and failed to provide critical antibiotics in a timely fashion.

“This is a nationwide problem and is not isolated to one region of the country or specific hospitals. This indicates that there is a real need for sepsis education amongst healthcare professionals across England and Wales.

“Sepsis may be difficult to spot however, NICE guidelines provide a sepsis checklist and state that antibiotics should be given even if sepsis is suspected and is yet to be confirmed. The new guidance will mean that NHS Trusts will be contractually obliged to follow the guidance from April 2019.

“Health professional should already be compelled to follow the sepsis guidelines because of their duty to deliver safe patient care and not because of a fear of a financial penalty. Repeated training at all levels is desperately needed to tackle this endemic to reduce the number of avoidable sepsis deaths.”

Diane Rostron and her team represented 45-year-old Paul Wilkinson who died in May 2017 from multiple organ failure after medical staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital failed to recognise and treat his sepsis symptoms on his admission to A&E as a priority patient. The coroner at his inquest delivered a finding of neglect.

 The team also recently represented the parents of 15-month-old Evie Candle who died in April 2018 after health professionals at Whiston Hospital in Merseyside failed to listen to their repeated suggestions that her symptoms could be sepsis and repeated requests for antibiotics. The coroner at her inquest also delivered a finding of neglect.

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