Scottish health boards say better awareness of sepsis could put strain on services

By Emily Jamison

A health board has said that better awareness of sepsis could lead to “unnecessary” attendance at GP surgeries.

In a written submission, NHS Dumfries and Galloway said a public campaign by Glasgow man Jim Robertson in relation to sepsis may “cause alarm and increase unnecessary attendance at GP practices or A&E departments”.

NHS Forth Valley also said that “it is necessary to consider the unintended consequences of inappropriately increasing public awareness”.

However, other health boards such as Tayside, Forth Valley, Grampian and Greater Glasgow and Clyde welcomed better awareness of the illness, with charities and experts saying it would save lives.

Mr. Robertson told the BBC he was ‘astonished’ that some health boards were not realising that public awareness could help the fight against sepsis.

He lost his wife to sepsis last year, and the only time the infection was mentioned was post mortem.

He said: “I didn’t really know anything about it at all, apart from that it was blood poisoning and I discovered there was a very, very low awareness of sepsis and the size of sepsis in Scotland – in fact the whole of the UK.”

The Fiona Elizabeth Agnew Trust (FEAT) was established in 2013 to create better awareness surrounding the early signs of the sepsis infection.

Dr. Fiona Agnew was 35 weeks pregnant when she was rushed to hospital with sepsis, where her daughter Isla was still born and she died soon after.

Dr. Agnew’s husband, Craig Stobo established the charity to stop sepsis through early diagnosis and to create better awareness surrounding the killer illness.

The charity said that awareness was key to treating the illness, and that it must be treated with the same urgency as a heart attack.

“Time is critical when it comes to sepsis and the prevalence of the illness makes it bewildering that so many people are unaware of it.

“Everyone seems to be aware of the major killers, and it’s almost like this has been a silent killer.”

Sepsis kills about 44,000 people in the UK every year, more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined.

It is triggered by an infection, but is actually linked to the immune system going into over drive.

Usually sepsis begins with a normal infection that the body is able to fight accordingly.  However, if the infection spreads around the body, the immune system may launch a massive response to fight the infection, causing septic shock, organ failure and occasionally death.

The Scottish Government said it would support any campaign that would help raise the awareness of sepsis.

A spokesperson said: “We have a long-standing commitment to raising awareness of sepsis, involving working closely with NHS Scotland and the Fiona Elizabeth Agnew Trust.

“We recognise that focusing on early identification of sepsis is critical – and treatment within one hour of recognition has led to mortality rates among those identified at this stage as falling by 21% since 2012.”

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