1. ITV Report

Mother of sepsis death baby welcomes government-backed awareness campaign

Melissa Mead, whose son William died of sepsis in 2014, outside the Department of Health in London with the chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust Ron Daniels. Credit: PA

A mother whose young son died from sepsis has convinced the health secretary to start an awareness campaign about the illness.

William Mead was just 12 months old when he died after a string of NHS failures in 2014 led to his case of sepsis not being properly recognised.

His mother Melissa told ITV News she is "delighted" by Jeremy Hunt's decision, who she said "acts like any other father" in wanting to know if his child has sepsis.

William Mead died of sepsis in December 2014 after a series of failings meant his illness was not recognised. Credit: Family photo

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.

Melissa Mead with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Clutching a teddy bear containing William's ashes, Mrs Mead told ITV News: "We're absolutely delighted as a family that Jeremy Hunt is going to stick to what he agreed to set out to do in January.

"With the work of The Sepsis Trust, we can save so many more thousands of lives.

"He (Jeremy Hunt) has got young children, he wants to be able to tell if his children have sepsis and he very much acts in the way of any other father or any other parent that would be concerned about their child and he wants to be able to tell if his child has sepsis".

What is sepsis?

  • 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.
  • A sepsis infection can start anywhere in the body and can occur after chest or water infections, abdomen problems - such as burst ulcers - or even from cuts and bites.
  • It is caused by the way the body responds to germs, such as bacteria.
  • The body’s response to an infection may injure tissues and organ.
  • If untreated, sepsis can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and death.
  • 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.

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.

Melissa with her son William.

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.

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.

Sepsis leads to 44,000 deaths a year. Credit: ITV news

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

Mrs Mead said her fight hasn't just been for her son William.

"I think our story reflects that of many, many other thousands of parents and adults that are bereaved from sepsis and also sepsis survivors.

"So I don't just talk from just William's perspective, but we're doing this for all of those 150,000 people who are affected by Sepsis every year."