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Mother of sepsis death baby welcomes new awareness campaign

Published 26/07/2016

Melissa Mead, whose 12-month-old son William died from sepsis, says the Government is backing a public awareness campaign about the condition
Melissa Mead, whose 12-month-old son William died from sepsis, says the Government is backing a public awareness campaign about the condition

A mother whose 12-month-old son died from sepsis has welcomed a Government-backed campaign to raise awareness of the potentially deadly condition.

Melissa Mead lost her son William when a string of NHS failures in 2014 led to his case of sepsis not being properly recognised.

Now she says Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has agreed to help lead a drive aimed at encouraging people to consider whether they or someone in their care might be suffering from sepsis whenever they are ill.

The decision came after Mr Hunt met members of the UK Sepsis Trust, including Mrs Mead, at the Department of Health on Tuesday.

Leaflets, posters and a 90-second social media video campaign aimed at both doctors and the public will appear at A&Es, walk-in centres and doctor's surgeries on World Sepsis Day on September 13.

Speaking after the meeting in Whitehall, Mrs Mead said she was "relieved and delighted".

She added: "There's going to be posters, there is going to be leaflets, there is going to be symptom cards, there is going to be a 90-second video which is going to be blanketed across social media to make sure we engage with the community when they are sitting on their sofas at home.

"It is really, really important that this is a campaign which continues to roll and have a journey and an evolution.

"Personally, I feel relieved because I'm here because William died but, equally, I'm stood here and we represent 44,000 people who die every year and 150,000 people who suffer with sepsis.

"This isn't a one-off story, it effects so many people's lives and it's very important."

Sepsis, also known as septicaemia or blood poisoning, is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight an infection.

There are about 150,000 cases of sepsis in the UK each year, 44,000 of which are fatal, according to the UK Sepsis Trust.

A report into the death of William Mead 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.

In January, Mr Hunt apologised in the House of Commons on behalf of the NHS and the Government for the death.

The campaign comes after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) updated its guidelines so that sepsis is treated by doctors and nurses as an emergency on the same level as heart attacks.

"William died in 2014 and it was a year later that we received the NHS England report," Mrs Mead said earlier on Tuesday.

"It's taken seven months to reach this stage but, equally, you can't put something out there that is not going to work and is not going to be engaging.

"Especially with the Nice guidelines which came out last week on sepsis, we're in a position now we're going to have joined-up writing and joined action and everyone is going to be thinking the same thing.

"I'm hoping today will be the last meeting, I'm not anticipating any more meetings."

The Think Sepsis and Ask Sepsis campaign will be aimed at recognising warning signs in both adults and children and the Department of Health has agreed to run it independently of a similar campaign to raise awareness of meningitis.

Campaigners had fought to separate the conditions into two campaigns so as not to present the public with a confused message.

Early symptoms of sepsis include fast breathing or a fast heartbeat, high or low temperature, chills and shivering. However, sufferers may or may not have a fever.

Severe symptoms can develop soon after and include blood pressure falling low, dizziness, disorientation, slurred speech, mottled skin, nausea and vomiting.

Without prompt treatment with antibiotics, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Sepsis is a devastating condition and patients rightly expect the NHS to be able to recognise it and provide the highest quality patient care.

"We have listened carefully to the Mead family and the UK Sepsis Trust and had a very productive meeting this morning to discuss our plan to fund a new campaign that will raise awareness of the condition, helping people to spot the signs and get the help they need. This work will run alongside the work we've already been doing to improve standards of care in the NHS."

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