In 2017 56-year-old Stephen Durkin died of sepsis as the Wye Valley Trust in Herefordshire failed to diagnose and treat the life-threatening condition in time. Sepsis occurs when the body overreacts to an infection and starts to damage the body’s tissues and organs – Mr Durkin died of organ failure as a result of his this.
Hospital staff suspected he had a blockage in a major blood vessel so he was admitted to a ward overnight, but although the next morning his condition worsened staff "did not monitor him more closely, as national guidance advises". The following day he was admitted to ITU and treated for sepsis but Mr Durkin died later that evening.
Health Ombudsman Rob Behrens said the death could “so easily" have been avoided - "His case shows why early detection of sepsis, as set out in national guidelines, is crucial. It is vital that NHS Trusts ensure their staff are sepsis-aware to reduce the number of avoidable deaths."
Since the investigation, the Trust here has proved extra training to its staff in sepsis management and advanced communication skills and says there has been a reduction in sepsis-related deaths. The Trust also agreed to pay Mrs Durkin £17,000 "in recognition of the injustice she suffered as a result of its failings".
Co-head of Tozers’ medical negligence team Stuart Bramley comments:
“The Ombudsman’s phrase “so easily avoided” is one which might initially seem to be describing an unusual event but when it comes to sepsis, it appears to be worryingly commonplace. As has been highlighted previously in Tozers commentaries, too many patients are suffering in the same way as Stephen Durkin. Despite campaigns to flag up the dangers and warning signs of these infections, we keep seeing instances where often quite apparent presenting symptoms are mistaken for something more innocent, leaving patients either injured or worse. I see in my own caseload of legal claims just how often this occurs, and I do hope that the NHS institutes nationally the sort of training that Wye Valley Trust now has in place to avoid similar tragedies recurring”.
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