A toddler “would probably have survived” if NHS 111 advisers had acted differently, an NHS England report says.

One year old William Mead died in December 2014 when he developed sepsis after a chest infection.

His parents repeatedly took him to their GP in the months before his death, but the GP failed to record the relevant information in his notes, and failed to recognise the signs of sepsis.

Mr and Mrs Mead were not properly advised what to do if their son’s condition worsened. So when he deteriorated one weekend, his mother rang NHS 111, the NHS’s out-of-hours service.

After answering a series of tick box questions, she was told “not to worry” and that William had “nothing serious”. She found him unresponsive the next morning.

At the time his death was attributed to ‘natural causes’. It was only at an inquest in June 2015 that the family learned he had died from septicaemia – a condition that can be successfully treated if the correct medical care is provided in time.

The recently published report into his death suggests that opportunities were missed to save William’s life. Not only did GPs fail to diagnose sepsis, the NHS 111 call handler did not detect the red flag symptoms due to a ‘crude’ pathway tool.

The report also says that had a medic taken the call from Mrs Mead that night, William “would probably have survived.”

This has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the NHS 111 service, which we reported on in October 2015. Call handlers are not medical practitioners, and the report says more training is needed to ensure serious health issues are detected and acted upon.

The report has also called for better recognition of sepsis amongst GPs and other medical staff, with Mrs Mead suggesting that “hardly anyone knows what” sepsis is.

Sepsis deaths

Sepsis kills around 37,000 people in the UK every year, and a leading charity believes 12,500 of these deaths could be prevented with earlier medical care.

If your loved one has died because sepsis was not diagnosed and treated in time, please get in touch to discuss taking legal action.

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