Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has issued an apology to the family of a baby who died of blood poisoning which the NHS 111 helpline and his GP had failed to diagnose.
Hunt say’s ‘sorry’ to William Mead’s parents
Mr Hunt has promised that the Government will review the number of nurses and doctors who are available to provide advice from the NHS 111 helpline – which is how the former NHS Direct service has been rebranded.
His assurances follow an investigation by NHS England into the death of one-year-old William Mead, which concluded that the child might have survived if call handlers had recognised the severity of his condition.
The call handlers, who were not trained clinicians, failed to realise that William was suffering from sepsis blood poisoning.
Early diagnosis of sepsis is critical
The key to surviving sepsis (also known as septicemia) is early diagnosis. It is therefore imperative that symptoms are accurately identified so that treatment can be commenced immediately. It is estimated that the condition costs the lives of around 35,000 people in the UK each year, including 1,000 children.
This is not the first NHS 111 sepsis misdiagnosis cases to hit the headlines. A man died from sepsis after it was misdiagnosed as heartburn, with NHS 111 operators advising him to take Gaviscon.
The Government acknowledges that urgent action is required to improve the NHS 111 service and that greater focus on sepsis training in the NHS, particularly among GPs, is essential.
NHS 111 misdiagnosis
The NHS 111 helpline has come in for widespread criticism since its launch, especially in relation to resourcing. Critics are worried that conditions like sepsis, where early diagnosis is so critical, may not be identified by inadequately trained staff.
There are also acknowledged problems arising from NHS 111 personnel working from a ‘script’ to diagnose key symptoms, which again can lead to misdiagnosis.
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