Mattheus Ferreira Vieira -v- King's Lynn NHS Trust

A Norfolk Hospital Trust has recently admitted to failings in the care of an 11 year old boy who died from Sepsis.

Lisa Atkinson
Lisa Atkinson

Published: May 9th, 2024

5 mins read

The Inquest heard that the 11 year old, who was Autistic, was described by medical staff as being very difficult to examine. The child was admitted to Hospital in April 2022 with a urinary tract infection. The child had communication issues and did not like to be touched. The Area Coroner for Norfolk said "he wasn't writhing in pain and was sitting quietly playing, which medical staff might have been reassured by". The Coroner added that the seriousness of his condition wasn't apparent to the medical staff who were treating him. Recording a narrative verdict the Coroner concluded that he had died from sepsis which was not recognised in a timely fashion and appropriate treatment was not instigated. His death was contributed to by neglect. A serious incident investigation by the Hospital also recorded that a number of red flags for sepsis had been present including rapid breathing and heart rates, low levels of oxygen in his blood and an ashen appearance. The Coroner said that if he had been started on a sepsis pathway in a timely manner he would have survived.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a condition that can occur when the body responds to an infection. Fighting the infection can cause the immune system to go into overdrive, resulting in inflammation throughout the body and damage to organs and tissues. If not treated quickly and effectively sepsis can result in multi-organ failure and death.

Causes of sepsis:

Sepsis can be caused by viral, bacterial and fungal infections. The precise cause of the infection and drugs to which it will be sensitive must be identified quickly to administer effective treatment, which requires a large number of tests and investigations. Although, Sepsis is hard to spot, particularly in babies, young children and people with Dementia, communication problems or learning difficulties. Sepsis can develop quickly from an initial infection and progress to septic shock in as little as 12 - 24 hours.

Who is at risk of contracting sepsis?

Anyone who is affected by an infection. Severe injury or serious non-communicable disease can progress to sepsis, but vulnerable populations are at a higher risk including:

  • People with communication problems or learning difficulties

  • Older people

  • Pregnant women

  • Babies

  • Hospitalised patients in intensive care

  • People with weakened immune systems

  • People with chronic medical conditions

Stages of Sepsis:

First Stage:

The first stage is known as systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and occurs when the body's immune system launches an overwhelming response to an infection. This initial stage is characterised by a variety of symptoms including fever, increased heart rate and rapid breathing. In other cases the infection may be localised, such as an open wound or urinary tract infection.

Second Stage:

The second stage is commonly referred to as severe sepsis. As the body tries to fight the infection, the immune system can become overwhelmed and as a result over reacts, causing damage to organs and tissues. One of the key characteristics of second stage sepsis is the onset of organ dysfunction. Organs commonly affected in the second stage include the liver, lungs and kidneys.

Third Stage:

The third stage is septic shock which affects respiration, often causing heart failure or stroke.

Recently the UK has seen a large spike in sepsis diagnosis' in nursing and care homes. Neglect often leads to sepsis, especially when certain protocols are not followed in terms of good personal hygiene, hand washing, safe preparation of food, unclean water and unsanitary conditions. Prompt medical attention is critical if sepsis is suspected. Treatment may involve fluid resuscitation, administration of antibiotics and support to stabilise blood pressure. In severe cases dialysis and ventilation may be required.

According to the UK Sepsis Trust, there are around 150,000 cases of sepsis each year, of which 30% prove fatal. Early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis is vital to preventing deterioration and permanent injury aiding prompt recovery and patient survival. Accepted thinking is that if sepsis is diagnosed and treated in the first hour following presentation a patient has over an 80% chase of survival. This reduces to around 30% after the 6th hour.

NICE Guidelines (S1) applies to primary, secondary and tertiary care and sets out what is required of health professionals in terms of examination, tests and investigations that should be undertaken where sepsis is suspected and the medical treatment that should be commenced.

Forbes Solicitors Clinical Negligence team frequently advise on cases involving injury to individuals due to Sepsis, including maternal sepsis following birth and termination, and sepsis contracted by the elderly in care home facilities. We work on a no win no fee basis. If you or a family member have suffered from sepsis due to sub-standard medical care, our team of medical negligence experts can help you pursue a claim for compensation. If you believe there was a delay in diagnosing and treating your condition, you will have 3 years from your date of knowledge to make a claim.

To speak with one of our specialists, please contact our team on 01254 872111 or complete the online enquiry form. We will advise and support you through the claims process ensuring you receive the best possible outcome.

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