We recently heard first-hand about the life-saving work being undertaken by the UK Sepsis Trust. As part of its programme to raise awareness, the Trust provided a compelling presentation to a large audience at Kingsley Napley.

The facts given about sepsis were stark and, to many people, surprising: Sepsis occurs when the body ‘over-reacts’ to an infection and its response starts to injure the tissue and organs. It affects children and adults and can arise in response to any infection, including common chest or urinary infections or an infected skin abrasion. It may also occur as a post-operative complication of infection following surgery. Sepsis can be life-threatening, even for people who were otherwise healthy.

It is estimated that sepsis affects more than 200,000 people in the UK each year and results in approximately 52,000 deaths annually; more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined.

A proportion of people who survive sepsis suffer life-changing injuries and effects, ranging from limb loss to psychiatric problems such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Some are unable to return to work and need long-term support.

The UK Sepsis Trust aims to improve outcomes by ensuring that sepsis is diagnosed and treated promptly. The treatment is relatively simple, usually involving antibiotics and oxygen/fluid support where required. However, this requires health professionals to keep in mind the possibility of sepsis and to treat whenever it is suspected.

The UK Sepsis Trust estimates that around 14,000 lives could be saved every year with increased awareness of the symptoms of sepsis. They have undertaken valuable work in educating the general public and health professionals about sepsis and have developed diagnostic screening tools to be used in healthcare organisations.

For members of the public, their advice is to just ask “Could this be sepsis?” when an adult or child is unwell. Details of the warning signs to look out for are provided on their website.