World Sepsis Day

12th September 2019

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13 September is World Sepsis Day, established to raise awareness of the symptoms of this potentially deadly condition and to avoid unnecessary deaths.

This year will mark the eighth anniversary of the inception of World Sepsis Day with more awareness and resources becoming available every year, aiming to prevent the unnecessary deaths caused by this condition. On this day, events will be taking place all over the world to raise awareness of this condition, ranging from medical education talks to fundraising events such as the ‘pink picnics’ campaign.

It appears to be more important than ever to raise awareness of sepsis as recent figures suggest that the number of people developing sepsis is increasing. In 2016-17 hospitals in Wales recorded a total of 12,589 sepsis cases compared to 11,457 in 2014-15, an increase of roughly 10%.


Sepsis is a rare but potentially life-threatening illness caused by the body’s response to an infection. It develops when chemicals released by the immune system into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead. If not treated quickly, sepsis can lead to septic shock and result in multiple organ failure and death. Sources indicate 52,000 people a year in the UK die from sepsis. Infections which can cause sepsis include:

  • Urine infections
  • Appendicitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Peritonitis
  • Cellulitis
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Endocarditis
  • Osteomyelitis


Sepsis is the cause of around 8 million deaths worldwide every year.

It is not commonly known that sepsis can be prevented by vaccination and clean care and that early recognition and treatment reduces sepsis mortality by 50%. The World Sepsis Day website states that the lack of knowledge of sepsis makes it the number one preventable cause of death worldwide.


In March 2019, the NHS released The Long-Term Plan to reduce the toll of, what the plan referred to as, the ‘hidden killer’ sepsis. The plan introduced changes to medical practices - one example is that hospital staff must now alert senior doctors if patients with suspected sepsis do not respond to treatment within an hour.

The NHS has significantly improved spotting the ‘hidden killer’, with screening rates in emergency departments increasing from 78% in 2015 to 91% in 2018. From 1 April 2019, a change in the NHS standard contract across England now requires all NHS trusts to comply with the new sepsis guidance. Dr Tim Nutbeam, Clinical Advisor for the Sepsis Trust, welcomes this initiative. If delivered correctly it will ensure rapid and effective treatment for the patients who need it most, whilst ensuring that senior clinical decision-makers are supported in making informed, balanced decisions in relation to the prescribing of antibiotics.

It is hoped that such practices will become commonplace across the UK as awareness of the condition grows. Certainly, World Sepsis Day and the events being held across the world will help to raise awareness of this potentially deadly condition and the importance of early recognition. However, it is inevitable that this hidden killer will sadly claim unnecessary deaths in the years to come.

If you or a family member have been affected by a delay or failure to diagnose or treat sepsis, you may be entitled to compensation. If you’re considering taking legal action, our specialist lawyers can help you get the specific support or advice you need at this difficult time.

For further information, please contact a member of the Clinical Negligence team.




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Spencer Collier


Partner, Cardiff

+44(0)29 2039 1704