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Major Northumbria project to tackle silent killer saves lives

Monday, 14 September, 2015
Major Northumbria project to tackle silent killer saves lives

Lives are being saved at a North East health trust thanks to a major project to raise awareness of sepsis – one of the UK’s biggest killers – and the importance of timely treatment.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s work to tackle sepsis in its hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside has led to at least 35 lives being saved since work started around a year ago.

As part of the project, sepsis has been a major focus for the trust with staff being reminded to ‘think infection, to spot sepsis’. Sepsis, also known as the silent killer, can be triggered by an infection in any part of the body. If diagnosed, and treatment is started within the first hour, a patient has more than an 80% survival rate. After the sixth hour, this survival rate drops to 30%.

The trust’s project, funded by the Health Foundation for two years, also raises awareness of the set of interventions known as ‘Sepsis Six’ which, if done in the crucial first hour, can double a patient’s chances of recovery.

To mark World Sepsis Day on Sunday 13 September, the trust has been spreading the word about sepsis to reinforce the message to staff and raise awareness among the general public by holding road shows at its hospitals.

Jayne Smith whose life was saved through the actions of quick-thinking staff at Northumbria Healthcare has also shared her story to further educate staff. To watch Jayne’s video, click here.

Sepsis is the body’s reaction to an infection and means the body attacks its own organs and tissues. Nationally it accounts for 37,000 deaths every year – more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer put together.

Jayne was staying with her daughter in Cramlington when she became ill, with severe pains in her chest and her side, and difficulty breathing. She suspected she may have pneumonia and had no idea that she may have sepsis.

Her daughter called an ambulance and she was taken to Wansbeck General Hospital* where she was assessed by specialists and, due to the severity of the situation, was transferred to critical care.

After four days in critical care, she was transferred to the specialist respiratory ward for on-going rehabilitation and is now recovering at home. She is full of praise for the staff who looked after her and at the speed at which things happened.

Jayne said: “Once I started to think that I’d had sepsis, and the staff mentioned it, it finally dawned on me how lucky I was to still be here.

“I don’t think I had realised what my diagnosis meant until one of the doctors said to me ‘did I realise how lucky I was?’. She said that people with my particular type of pneumonia and sepsis didn’t make it out of critical care – that was quite an eye-opener.

“The best bits about my care were the speed that everyone managed to do things at. The ambulance crew was there early, the doctors were waiting for me at A&E, they knew exactly what was going on, they were on the ball with blood tests, doing all the right things.

“If I hadn’t been where I was at that particular time, I wouldn’t be here today.”

She added: “During my care I was talked to and reassured all the time, and there was always somebody coming in and out to make sure I was alright. At no stage did I feel worried, whether it was the painkillers I was on or the state I was in I don’t know, however I felt that I was being very well looked after.”

Jayne is pleased to support World Sepsis Day.

“World Sepsis Day is a fabulous thing to do as the more people who know about it the better,” she said. “Knowing it’s out there and knowing it can be treated if caught early enough means that you’re going to be here, as I am, to see my seventh grandchild grow up.”

Dr Eliot Sykes, consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care who is leading the sepsis campaign at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “As part of our continued commitment to deliver safe and high quality care to all our patients, our sepsis project has been a major piece of work for our trust and engaged clinical staff from across our organisation.

“The results from our first year are most rewarding, demonstrating that our project is having a positive impact on patient care and, above all, saving lives. Jayne’s story is just one of the many examples of our staff acting quickly, spotting the signs and beginning treatment early, ensuring she’s here to tell the tale.

“The project has been a massive team effort and I would like to thank everybody who has played their part and helped to deliver this important safety priority.

“With much focus nationally on sepsis, it is most pleasing that our project is leading the way nationally and we can share our good work with the rest of the NHS.

“Over the next year we look forward to building on this success and saving more lives.”