News story

Helping parents spot the signs of sepsis

Sepsis awareness campaign will help parents and carers of young children recognise the symptoms of sepsis.

Melissa Mead holding a card describing a symptom of sepsis
Melissa Mead, mother and sepsis campaigner

A nationwide campaign, launched by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, will help parents spot the symptoms of sepsis to protect young children and save lives.

The campaign is principally aimed at parents and carers of young children aged 0 to 4. It includes a film featuring mother and campaigner Melissa Mead, who lost her baby son William to sepsis in December 2014.

The UK Sepsis Trust estimates that there are more than 120,000 cases of sepsis and around 37,000 deaths each year in England.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

Sepsis is a devastating condition that we need to far get better at spotting across the NHS. By raising awareness and improving clinical practice we will save lives in the fight against this horrible illness. I’d like to thank those who have worked with us to campaign for better awareness of sepsis, including Melissa Mead and other families who have tragically lost children to sepsis.

Leaflets and posters are being sent to GP surgeries and hospitals across the country. These materials, developed with experts, will urge parents to call 999 or take their child to A&E if they display any of the following signs:

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

Campaign supporter and UK Sepsis Trust ambassador Melissa Mead said:

Sepsis is a cruel, ruthless condition which doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone. I hope this campaign reaches as many people as possible, so all parents out there know about sepsis and how serious it can be. The more parents know, the quicker they can act if they suspect their child may be suffering from sepsis – it could be life-saving.

I will never hear my sweet child say ‘mummy I love you’. I will never know the man that William would have grown to be. So please, it is too late for me to ‘think sepsis’, but it’s not too late for you.

The campaign, delivered by Public Health England and the UK Sepsis Trust, follows a number of measures already taken by the NHS to improve early recognition and timely treatment of sepsis. This includes a national scheme to make sure at-risk patients are screened for sepsis as quickly as possible and receive timely treatment on admission to hospital. We are also working with Health Education England to make sure all health professionals have the knowledge and skills to identify and treat sepsis.

Professor Paul Cosford, Director of Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England, said:

We know that acting quickly in cases of sepsis can save a child’s life and it is important parents have the information to take action. This campaign gives parents vital information about sepsis, helps them identify the symptoms of sepsis and encourages them to seek the appropriate medical attention. It is important that these messages are widely received which is why I am writing with Sir Bruce Keogh to all NHS medical directors to highlight this campaign and the importance of making all staff aware of the signs of sepsis.

Dr Ron Daniels, Chief Executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, added:

With sepsis claiming over 37,000 lives annually in England, this awareness campaign is a crucial step forward. Clinicians and members of the public can save thousands of lives every year if they just ask: ‘could it be sepsis?’

The UK Sepsis Trust welcomes this initiative, but system-wide improvements to sepsis care must follow. We’re delighted to have developed campaign materials that will empower parents to identify sepsis symptoms in their children and seek medical attention immediately.

For further information on sepsis, visit www.nhs.uk/sepsis or www.sepsistrust.org.

Published 15 December 2016