NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

NHS Grampian to apologise after Aberdeen sepsis death

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary sign

NHS Grampian has been told to apologise to the family of a cancer patient who died after developing sepsis.

The 53-year-old patient, described as Mrs A, was diagnosed with cancer after attending Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) found the health board failed to prescribe antibiotics as a precaution to prevent infection.

NHS Grampian said it accepted SPSO's recommendations and would implement them in full.

The patient was diagnosed with cancer after attending Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with lower abdominal pain on two occasions.

After a procedure to drain urine from her kidneys, Mrs A began to show signs of infection.

She then developed sepsis, and later died.


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.


The patient's daughter complained that she had not been prescribed antibiotics as a precaution to prevent an infection.

The health board wrongly told her that they were not required to prescribe antibiotics in that situation.

She asked the SPSO to investigate.

'Apologise unreservedly'

It has ruled there was a failure to follow proper prescription procedures. It also found that NHS Grampian failed to apologise to the family.

NHS Grampian has been told to make sure guidance for clinicians is clear, and to apologise to the family.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: "We have accepted the Ombudsman's recommendations and will implement them in full. This report will be shared in full with the relevant clinical staff.

"We will apologise unreservedly to the family for the areas where our care has fallen short of the high standards we would expect."

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