According to the UK Sepsis Trust, 52,000 people lose their lives to sepsis every year in the UK alone.

Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) arises when the body's immune system overreacts to an infection. Normally our immune system fights infection - but sometimes it attacks our body's own organs and tissues. If not treated immediately, sepsis can lead to organ failure and death. Yet with early diagnosis it is easily treatable.

Sepsis can result from any infection, the most common being chest and urine infections. People of all ages can be affected but the most vulnerable are those:

  • at the extremes of life, e.g. premature babies and the frail elderly
  • who are immuno-suppressed
  • pregnant women
  • with chronic illnesses, e.g. diabetes
  • on long-term steroids or having cancer treatment.

How to recognise possible sepsis?

If a person has two or more of: a very high (or very low) temperature, rapid shallow breathing, or confusion then they may have sepsis. Seek medical advice if you are concerned.

In the early stages, it is often difficult to distinguish sepsis from flu. However, if any of the features above exist and the skin is cold, pale, or has developed strange colour or markings ('mottled'), the patient has lost consciousness, or has not passed water for more than 18 hours (12 hours in children under 5), then the patient needs to be taken to hospital as soon as possible. 

If you suspect sepsis, try to ensure the patient receives urgent medical attention. Don't be afraid to say 'I think it might be sepsis'.

For further information, refer to:

What are we doing to protect you in hospital? 

At East Kent Hospitals, we have introduced a sepsis pathway to help staff recognise the signs of severe sepsis in patients at an early stage. The pathway includes six specific nationally recommended interventions and a seventh regarding escalation to senior clinicians. 

Our aim is to ensure rapid diagnosis of sepsis, enabling delivery of antibiotics within an hour of arrival to more than 90% of patients.