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West Herts #ChainofAction raises sepsis awareness

Posted: 13 September 2018
Kate Ewer, Head of Communications

Picture of staff holding #ChainofAction to raise awareness of Sepsis

Staff, patients and carers are linking up to help spread awareness of the signs of sepsis through the West Herts #ChainofAction.

Three thousand fluorescent orange paper links have been distributed across West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust in the run up to World Sepsis Day this Thursday 13 September to create a paper chain filled with words and phrases associated with sepsis. Hundreds of people have contributed and the chain now measures over 100 metres in length, providing a vivid visual trigger for staff and the public to ask – ‘could it be sepsis?’

Sepsis kills 44,000 people a year in the UK and 70% of cases occur away from a hospital setting. Also known as blood poisoning, sepsis is the immune system’s overreaction to infection or injury and initially looks like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. With early diagnosis sepsis can be treated with antibiotics. But not spotting the signs of sepsis can be fatal.

No one is more acutely aware of this than dad of three, Daren Fletcher, from Abbots Langley. The usually fit and healthy osteopath spent three days in intensive care (ITU) at Watford General Hospital this April being treated for sepsis after contracting pneumonia.

The day he ended up in ITU began with Daren experiencing flu-like symptoms and chest pain. He commuted as usual into London and after visiting a private GP, who sent him to hospital where he was prescribed antibiotics and had a chest x-ray, he began to feel a little better.

By the afternoon, Daren had decided to take the train home as he felt so ill. He was incoherent in his phone calls and messages to his family and he was so exhausted by the time he returned to Watford Junction that he could barely walk. He was picked up from the station by members of his concerned family and taken by ambulance to Watford General A&E.

Daren, who had never heard of sepsis before falling ill, offers the following advice. “Listen to your body. I knew that I felt like I was going down with flu but something else just didn’t feel right. I’ve never felt that ill before and my body was obviously giving me signals. If I hadn’t paid attention to the signs, it might have been a very different story for me.”

He responded well to treatment in ITU and after five days at Watford General, he returned home to his family. It has taken several months for him to recover his usual energy levels but he knows that he is lucky.

Staff at Watford General are alert to the signs of sepsis thanks to the tireless work of the sepsis steering group. Former ITU nurses Moira Surridge and Sarah Lafbery work relentlessly to improve the recognition and early treatment of sepsis for doctors, nurses, visitors and patients.

In addition to raising awareness of sepsis triggers through posters, newsletters and leaflets, they have taught hundreds of members of staff through ward-based sessions or one to one chats. They have collaborated with the East of England Ambulance Trust to train paramedics; checked the observation charts of more than 2,000 patients a year for signs of sepsis; and by walking around the trust wearing bright orange ‘Think Sepsis’ t-shirts have triggered conversations with patients and relatives who have shared their sepsis stories.

Through their efforts, the number of patients who are screened on admission for suspected sepsis has risen from 46% in 2015 to 92% in three years. And the number of patients who receive intravenous antibiotics within an hour of a sepsis diagnosis is now at 94% compared with 58% in 2015.

“The support for this chain of action has been overwhelming. It’s come from all corners of the trust and we’ve been stopped time and again by patients and visitors who want to share their stories,” said Moira. “We can and we will save lives with this awareness campaign, of that I have no doubt.”

Visit the UK Sepsis Trust for more information

The following are often referred to as the ‘soft signs’ of sepsis. Seek medical help urgently if you spot these signs.

Slurred speech or confusion

Extreme shivering or muscle pain

Passing no urine (in a day)

Severe breathlessness

It feels like you’re going to die

Skin mottled or discoloured

Just ask, ‘could it be sepsis?’


Notes to editors

  1. For more information, please contact the communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: Out of hours, please call 07900 228031.
  2. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust serves people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three hospitals; Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead. The trust has a catchment area of over 500,000 people and is one of the largest employers locally, with around 5,000 staff and volunteers.
  3. For more information about our hospitals, visit You can also join our followers on Twitter ( and find us on Facebook (