Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn
The scale of the deadly blood poisoning disease sepsis is "far worse" than previously thought as a "crippling" lack of data meant previous estimates were wide off the mark, a major study has revealed.
The research by the York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) found there are at least 260,000 cases of sepsis in the UK each year - at least 100,000 more than previously thought.
Sepsis, which kills more than 44,000 people across the country every year, can lead to rapid organ failure if not identified and treated quickly, leaving thousands of survivors with life-changing disabilities.
The Chief Executive of the UK Sepsis Trust said the findings unveil a "shocking new indication of the gravity and sheer scale of the problem".
The number of cases of sepsis in the UK each year
Dr Ron Daniels said: "It's sobering to learn that the issue is so much greater than previously estimated.
"Equally sobering, though, is the dearth of reliable data recorded for a condition that carries such an overwhelming costs in human and economic terms."
The study, which was commissioned by the UK Sepsis Trust, found:
Sepsis is likely to cost £15.6 billion a year, rather than the previous estimate of £2.5 billion;
Savings of up to £2.8 billion could be made by improving sepsis care;
Mortality and long-term complications due to delayed diagnosis and treatment of sepsis patients is resulting in billions of pounds worth of lost productivity;
Thousands of lives could be saved through government intervention to improve access to healthcare and the reliability of basis care.
The report recommends new practices for coding sepsis are introduced by NHS Trusts across the UK and calls for the Department of Health or NHS England to create a 'sepsis registry' to capture key information about sepsis patients.
It will be presented by the UK Sepsis Trust on Monday at an event hosted by Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of NHS England.
Dr Daniels added: "We've long been aware that sepsis causes thousands of unnecessary deaths every year and presents an unmanageable economic burden.
"A crippling paucity of data has thus far confined us to conservative estimates, but the figures reported in YHEC's study are a shocking new indication of the gravity and sheer scale of the problem.
"It's imperative that the government acts decisively to develop a national 'sepsis registry' and introduces coding practices for sepsis in all NHS trusts.
"A precise understanding of how the NHS handles sepsis is urgently required to prevent avoidable deaths, improve outcomes for survivors and save billions of pounds for the UK as a whole."
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We need to get far better at spotting sepsis across the NHS, which is why we are rolling out a lifesaving campaign to raise awareness and improve clinical practice.
"Already a million leaflets and posters have been distributed to GP clinics, hospitals and other public places - another step in our fight against this devastating condition.”