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TACKLING SEPSIS IN HEALTHCARE


Ian Catchpole from Tork manufacturer Essity examines the reason why sepsis is increasingly hitting the headlines – and looks at how healthcare professionals are tackling this terrifying condition.


Around 20 years ago, MRSA was the scourge of our hospitals. Medical staff around the globe were battling to fight this relatively new threat which, by the turn of the millennium, had become a major issue.


Ten years later it was C.difficile that was hitting the headlines and causing untold misery in the healthcare system. Today the focus is on sepsis – a condition that is featuring with increasing frequency on the news and striking fear into all our hearts. But why has sepsis only come to light comparatively recently?


One reason is that the condition was only defined as ‘sepsis’ in 1991 when an international panel of health experts agreed on the term. It now applies to any condition resulting in organ dysfunction due to the body’s response to an infection.


However, the term is still not widely understood. A recent survey revealed that only 44% of people in the UK had heard of sepsis with many confusing it with blood poisoning or


40 | HEALTHCARE HYGIENE


septicaemia, both of which simply refer to the invasion of bacteria into the bloodstream.


This general lack of awareness is what makes sepsis particularly deadly. NHS watchdogs warned in April 2018 that patients were dying of sepsis because ill-trained staff were unable to spot the signs. These include chills, shivering, a raised heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, severe muscle pain, breathlessness and a mottled skin.


And some are claiming the condition could be on the rise. President of the Intensive Care Society, Mark Bellamy, asserted in 2014 that growing antibiotic resistance could potentially boost the number of sepsis cases. He warned that new antibiotics were urgently needed to prevent the spread of resistant bugs which could lead to the condition.


So, who is potentially at risk of developing sepsis? In fact it can affect any of us, but particularly vulnerable are the very


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