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Bereaved mother meets Jeremy Hunt in fight to improve sepsis care

Published 22/02/2016

Melissa Mead has led calls for an awareness campaign
Melissa Mead has led calls for an awareness campaign

A bereaved mother has called on Jeremy Hunt to implement a package of measures to improve sepsis care to prevent deaths like that of her son.

Melissa Mead , whose son William died after medics failed to spot he had sepsis, said she had discussed the possibility of an awareness campaign about the condition, better training for medics and the sharing of patient records with t he Health Secretary.

But she implored him to implement the measures sooner rather than later in order to prevent more needless deaths from sepsis.

The comments come after Mrs Mead and The UK Sepsis Trust came out of a meeting with key health officials, including Mr Hunt, to discuss what can be done to improve the care for patients with sepsis.

Last month, a report into the death of 12-month-old William criticised GPs, out-of-hours services and a 111 call handler who failed to spot he had sepsis caused by an underlying chest infection and pneumonia.

"There was lots of talk about how things can change and what can change but we actually need to make sure now that happens ASAP," she said.

Mrs Mead said the sharing of patient records, specialist sepsis training for GPs and other health professionals and a public health campaign were all discussed in the meeting.

"He definitely seems to be interested in a public health campaign but it is about tying him down and making sure he follows it through and that is absolutely what I am going to be doing," she said.

"I want more, I want him to commit and I want him to commit sooner rather than later. I am happy and I am content that he is taking it on board but it does need to happen sooner rather than later."

Mrs Mead, who is meeting Mr Hunt again in two months, added: "This is really important to me. I have got nothing to lose, I have lost my son and I have lost my son to a condition that is easily treatable.

"In William's case it was very preventable so it is really important to me to make sure that message gets across.

"I don't want to be stood here but I have to be stood here.

"We cannot be in a position where there is another mother stood here in a month's time, another apology because of failure in care. There has to be a commitment to change."

Since the publication of the report into William's death, Mrs Mead has been contacted by three parents who have thanked her for saving the lives of their children because of the work she had done to raise awareness of sepsis.

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of The UK Sepsis Trust, added: "While the Secretary of State has committed an agreement in principle to a public awareness campaign, there has been no direct commitment to resourcing and who is going to provide that.

"Every day while we wait until that public awareness campaign is in place 120 more adults and three or four more little William's are dying from sepsis.

"I am encouraged by the ongoing commitment. Melissa and The UK Sepsis Trust now need to see a concrete time-scale as to when we are going to see change, when we are going to see resource commitment."

The charity says that thousands of lives could be saved each year if more was done to combat sepsis, including an awareness campaign, a national registry which tracks progress in sepsis care and better training for health professionals.

Dr Daniels said the latest figures show there are 44,000 deaths from sepsis each year but he has estimated that 14,000 lives could be saved each year if the measures were implemented.

When the body is in sepsis, its immune system goes into overdrive which can lead to inflammation, swelling and blood clotting. This can lead to a decrease in blood pressure which can mean the blood supply to vital organs is reduced. If the condition is not treated quickly it can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

Early symptoms include fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and quick breathing. Symptoms of more severe sepsis or septic shock include feeling dizzy or faint, confusion or disorientation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin.

The Health Secretary said: "Sepsis is a devastating condition and patients rightly expect the NHS to be able to recognise it and provide high quality, safe care.

"We have already made progress to improve awareness of sepsis among health professionals but there is still much more that can be done.

"That is why I will be working with the Mead family and UK Sepsis Trust to put in place a series of measures to improve information and awareness both amongst the public and health professionals and drive down the number of lives needlessly lost from this condition each year."

Professor Keith Willett, NHS England's national director for acute care, who met with Mrs Mead, said: "The tragic death of William Mead highlights the vital need for everyone, including GPs, out of hours services and NHS 111, to better recognise the early signs of sepsis.

"We are glad the family are so willing to help us and experts from Sepsis UK, and the Royal College of General Practitioners, in working towards reducing the risk of any other family going through such suffering."

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