Sepsis: Campaign to raise awareness of UK's second biggest killer could save 14,000 lives, says charity

12-month-old William Mead died after his GP and an NHS helpline failed to diagnose him with the condition 

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Raising awareness of the danger of sepsis could save the lives of 14,000 people each year, according to a charity. 

The campaign comes after 12-month-old William Mead died after his GP and an NHS 111 call operator did not spot that he had sepsis, a report into his death found. 

His mother Melissa Mead, 29, is supporting the drive by the UK Sepsis Trust to heighten awareness of the condition which is the second biggest killer in the UK after heart disease, and claims the lives of 44,000 people each year. 

The term sepsis describes the condition where the immune system goes into overdrive and can cause inflammation, swelling and blood clots. This can cause a drop in blood pressure, which cuts blood supply to vital organs. If the condition is not treated immediately, it can result in organ failure and death. 

Early symptoms include fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and quick breathing. Symptoms of more severe sepsis or septic shock include feeling dizzy or faint, confusion or disorientation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin.

Mrs Mead, from Penryn, Cornwall, is set to join representatives from the UK Sepsis Trust at a meeting with health officials including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday 22 February to discuss how the condition can be better dealt with. 

The UK Sepsis Trust has said that 14,000 deaths could be prevented annually if the the public was better educated, a national registry which documents progress in sepsis care was established, and healthcare professionals were better trained. 

Mrs Mead told the Press Association: “If our doctors aren't recognising sepsis how are parents supposed to recognise it? That is something I want to raise - how to we get that out there?

"It needs to be in packs which are given to first time parents, it needs to be on TV like the Fast stroke campaign and the meningitis campaign, it needs to be out there for the general public to grasp.

"When I called 111 I didn't know that William was seriously ill, I didn't collectively look at William's symptoms and think 'this is sepsis' because I didn't know what sepsis was.

"I was checking for rashes all over William because I knew what meningitis was but I didn't know what sepsis was."

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of The UK Sepsis Trust said: "We need to make sure that health professional education is robust and is mandated. We have to have a better measure of outcomes and we have to have some resources available that reward excellent care.“

"We conservatively estimate that we can save another 14,000 lives across the UK every year, and we would hope rather more than that."

Additional reporting by PA