Recent statistics from NHS Digital show that the number of hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of sepsis has risen from 169,125 in 2014/15 to 350,344 in 2017/18. The number of children under five being admitted has increased from 30,981 to 38,401.
Sepsis is thought to kill 52,000 people per year in the UK alone, though a variety of factors are thought to have contributed to the dramatic rise in hospital admissions in recent years.
Increasing antibiotic resistance
An increasing resistance in the population to antibiotics could be contributing to the increase in sepsis admissions.
Dr Ron Daniels, head of the UK Sepsis Trust said: “A decade or two ago, infections such as urinary tract infections would be controlled by simple antibiotics – not so today. If the antibiotic doesn’t begin to control the infection, it may become more complicated – ideal breeding grounds for the onset of sepsis”.
Increasing awareness of sepsis
It has also been suggested that the significant increase in awareness of sepsis in recent years had played a part in the increase in admissions. As more people have become aware of sepsis and hospitals have improved their ability to diagnose and treat it, the number of admissions where sepsis is listed as the primary or secondary diagnosis has increased.
Celia Ingham Clark, of NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “The NHS has become much better at spotting and treating sepsis quickly over the last few years, so even though more cases are being diagnosed, the chances of dying from it are falling.”
“As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, our work on sepsis and antimicrobial resistance is coming together to make sure that patients with serious infections get the right antibiotic at the right time, and antibiotics are not used where they won’t help, so we can reduce the risk of infections in the future becoming resistant to antibiotics.”
Concerns over the sepsis rate in children
Dr Daniels expressed his particular concern at the rising rate of sepsis in children, and has warned parents to watch for the signs of sepsis as they would other diseases. He said “parents need to continue to be aware of meningitis, but to arguably be even more aware of sepsis as it affects far more children and can be equally deadly.”
The NHS urges parents to go straight to A&E or call 999 if their child has any of the following symptoms of sepsis:
• looks mottled, bluish or pale
• is very lethargic or difficult to wake
• feels abnormally cold to touch
• is breathing very fast
• has a rash that does not fade when you press it
• has a fit or convulsion
Elizabeth Wickson, solicitor with Medical Accident Group, said: “Despite more awareness of sepsis, it is concerning that increased resistance to antibiotics is making it more difficult to treat in some cases. Parents in particular should be aware of the symptoms, given the recent increase of sepsis cases in children, as early diagnosis can greatly improve the prospects of recovery.”
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