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  1. ITV Report

Hospital admissions for sepsis more than double in three years

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie

Hospital admissions for potentially deadly sepsis in England have more than doubled in three years, new figures reveal.

There were rises among all age groups, including the very young, prompting the head of the UK Sepsis Trust to warn parents they need to be just as vigilant for sepsis as for meningitis.

Sepsis is thought to kill 52,000 people a year in the UK.

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said increasing antibiotic resistance in the population and growing awareness of sepsis were factors in the figures.

Tom Ray, who fell into a coma after contracting sepsis, has called for mandatory training on sepsis. Credit: ITV News

Dr Daniels said: "If the antibiotic doesn’t begin to control the infection, it may become more complicated – ideal breeding grounds for the onset of sepsis.

"A simple urinary tract infection could develop into a complex case in which the kidneys are also involved.

"Such complex infections, and any infection remaining under-treated, increase the risk of sepsis developing."

A new rapid test for sepsis was developed by scientists earlier this year. Credit: PA

The NHS Digital data shows there were 350,344 recorded hospital admissions with a first or second diagnosis of sepsis in 2017/18, up from 169,125 three years earlier.

This includes 38,401 admissions among those aged four and under, up from 30,981 in 2015/16.

For all children and young people aged 24 and under, there were 48,647 admissions in 2017/18.

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Dr Daniels said the scale of the problem in children looks "alarming", adding: "What this means is that 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 figures come as the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said a tool for tracking sepsis in children was not used as often as it should be and A&E departments were struggling to ensure youngsters suspected of having the condition were seen quickly enough and then reviewed by a senior doctor.

Lead author of the report, Dr Francesca Cleugh, said existing tools for identifying sepsis in children will lead to too many youngsters with fever falling into the high risk category, "which has limited their consistent use across emergency departments as it leads to over investigation and over-use of intravenous antibiotics that contributes to antibiotic resistance".

Celia Ingham Clark, medical director for clinical effectiveness at 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."