Scotland

Government announces u-turn on sepsis awareness campaign

Craig Stobo with his wife Fiona and son Robert at Christmas 2010 Image copyright Craig Stobo
Image caption Craig Stobo's wife Fiona died from sepsis in 2012

A national campaign raising awareness of sepsis has been announced by Health Secretary Shona Robison.

It comes three weeks after the Scottish government said it did not think such a campaign was "necessary at this time".

The announcement was welcomed by Sepsis charities, who believe the move will save lives.

Sepsis kills about 3,500 people every year in Scotland and is caused when the immune system overreacts to infection.

Early identification is critical and treatment within an hour is vital to reducing the death rate.

Ms Robison made her announcement following a meeting with the Fiona Elizabeth Agnew Trust (FEAT).

It was set up by Craig Stobo after his wife - a Bo'ness GP - died from sepsis in Edinburgh five years ago.

The health secretary said: "The Scottish government has always been committed to raising awareness of the dangers of sepsis and this meeting was an important step in formalising our plans for a dedicated campaign.

"I was delighted to meet with FEAT and to discuss next steps. It is clear from our meeting that a marketing and awareness campaign is a sensible next step.

"While mortality rates have fallen by 21% since 2012, there's still more to be done. I hope our campaign will play its part in equipping the public with a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of this awful condition."


What is sepsis?

Image copyright ANIMATED HEALTHCARE LTD/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Sepsis, also known as septicaemia or blood poisoning, is the body's reaction to an infection.

It starts with an infection that can come from anywhere - even a contaminated cut or insect bite.

Normally, your immune system kicks in to fight the infection and stop it spreading.

But if the infection manages to spread quickly round the body, then the immune system will launch a massive immune response to fight it.

This can also be a problem as the immune response can have catastrophic effects on the body, leading to septic shock, organ failure and even death.

Sepsis needs to be spotted and treated quickly, usually with antibiotics, before it spreads.

Prof Kevin Rooney, a consultant in intensive care medicine at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, told BBC Scotland: "For every hour's delay in antibiotics, your mortality from sepsis increases by almost 8%, so if we can get people in the community to the hospitals quicker, that will surely make a difference."


Raise awareness

Details of the campaign are yet to be finalised but radio, press and outdoor advertising are expected to reach 1.2 million people.

The government said it would also complement work being done by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) through the Scottish Patient Safety Programme to raise awareness among clinical practitioners and clinicians.

Craig Stobo said FEAT welcomed the health secretary's announcement.

"This will help raise people's awareness of this major public health issue, save lives and improve patients' outcomes," he said.

"This is just the beginning of a long road ahead.

"We look forward to working further with the Scottish government to consolidate the recent, welcome fall in deaths from sepsis; with a focus on continuous improvement to ensure there is safe, consistent care for all sepsis patients across Scotland."


What are the symptoms?

The UK Sepsis Trust lists six symptoms to be aware of:

  • slurred speech
  • extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • passing no urine in a day
  • severe breathlessness
  • skin mottled or discoloured

Symptoms in young children include:

  • looks mottled, bluish or pale
  • very lethargic or difficult to wake
  • abnormally cold to touch
  • breathing very fast
  • a rash that does not fade when you press it
  • a seizure or convulsion

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