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'It's a serial killer': Detection rates on the rise as staff become 'sepsis aware'

Simon Harris said hospital staff are now trained to be more “sepsis aware”.

THERE HAS BEEN a 30% drop in the number of deaths by sepsis in the last five years, according to the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) latest report.

The 2016 National Sepsis Report finds that 14,000 cases of sepsis were recorded last year alone – which represents a 67% increase in cases compared with 2015.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition, triggered by infection, which can lead to organ failure.

Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE National Clinical Lead for Sepsis, stressed that the rise was due to greater vigilance, education, awareness and management.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he did not want the percentage to be misconstrued, adding that the increase in sepsis detection rates is a testament to the good work of frontline staff.

Ireland’s sepsis mortality rate (the number of deaths) is now less than 20%, with the minister stating that this rate benchmarks very well internationally and represents a 20% decrease in mortality since national guidelines on sepsis were published in 2014.

Harris said important improvements have been made since the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar five years ago.

Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to University Hospital Galway in 2012.

She was denied an emergency termination, and died one week after being admitted to hospital after miscarrying and going into septic shock.

“Huge progress has been made by frontline staff right around the health service since sepsis leads have been appointed in each and every hospital… We know in this country the significant learning that has taken place since the very sad death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway,” he said, adding that sepsis is still “an extraordinary killer”.

It is a serial killer, and an extraordinary danger to so many people.

Since a national standardised programme was developed, improvements have been made, he said, adding that staff are now trained to “be more sepsis aware”.

“We know timely intervention is key. The quicker you detect it and treat the patient the more likely that patient is to survive,” said the minister.

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