A MAJOR campaign to tackle sepsis at the Great Western Hospital has already seen mortality rates drop from 63 to 25 per cent in Swindon since February.

The life-threatening condition can affect anyone who has developed an infection. Left untreated or diagnosed too late it can lead to multiple organ failure in the space of a few hours.

Consultant Dr Amanda Pegden took it upon herself to target the issue last July, eventually receiving funding for a specialist sepsis nurse to educate staff and ensure they were able to recognise the condition’s tell-tale signs and performed necessary interventions as soon as possible.

Nic Lythell came into post in May and her input, monitoring and efforts to raise awareness among doctors and nurses, especially in the emergency department, have significantly increased survival rates at the hospital.

“We are able to recognise many more patients now, about 60 a month,” said Nic. “A lot of the symptoms are vague and can be attributed to other things. One person can also have a minor chest infection for example and develop severe sepsis. It can be disproportionate to the underlying infection. A lot of the training I do in the emergency department is making sure that if a patient comes in with an infection they are screened for sepsis systematically.

“It is a rapidly developing condition and it changes so rapidly.”

Sepsis, previously known as septicaemia or blood poisoning, is the body’s reaction to an infection where it attacks its own organs and tissues.

It is a rare but serious condition and can start from any minor infection such as a urine infection or an infected bite or wound.

If not treated it can be fatal within as few as six hours.

Symptoms can often be confused with or misdiagnosed as flu or gastroenteritis. They include slurred speech, extreme shivering or muscle pain, passing no urine in the day, severe breathlessness, discoloured or mottled skin.

More than 37,000 people lose their lives to sepsis each year in the UK. In Swindon, between one and two people are admitted to hospital with severe sepsis each day.

According to the latest figures released by GWH, in just three months between October and December 2012, 42 out of all 213 patients in the Intensive Care Unit had severe sepsis.

The introduction of the Sepsis Six, a set of simple interventions, including prescribing antibiotics, giving patients oxygen and intravenous fluids, within the first hour of diagnosis, has also made a tremendous difference and increased survival by up to 30 per cent.

Dr Pegden said: “It is a massive campaign. I started from scratch and now there is a lot more awareness. It has been a big achievement. The aim now is to go out and raise awareness with the public.”