Sep 132016

tdg-tronThe first time I ever saw or heard of Sepsis it was on a death certificate. The death certificate was my brother’s. I remember squinting across the registrar’s table at this little word next to “primary cause of death.” It meant nothing to me.

My brother was… is… Mark. He was 41 years old, married with a 3 year old daughter. He had a family and a future.

At midday on Thursday 31st May, 2012 Mark walked into A&E (London) with stomach pains. By 17.15p.m. he had suffered a cardiac arrest. By 19.00p.m. he was on a ventilator with a 50/50 chance of survival. By 01.00a.m. on Friday 1st June, his kidneys had failed, his odds had shortened and his family were on the M4 having received the phone call nobody wants. The next morning his heart was too weak for dialysis. We know now that he was in septic shock. Multiple organ failure. He fought hard on his last day as did all the ITU staff. Everyone gave everything but sepsis won. He died peacefully lunchtime on Saturday 2nd June.

We couldn’t believe how this had happened. He had a stomach bug. How could we have lost a son, a brother, a husband, and Sophie a dad? Well, what I know now which I didn’t know then is that it can happen, it does happen and it happens far too often. In fact it happens 44,000 times a year in the UK. 2,200 times in Wales. I thought we were one in a million. We were not.

Sepsis is a car crash illness. It is indiscriminate and can affect anyone. It kills nearly a third of all the people it touches. That’s more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined. Shocking isn’t it? You know what’s also shocking? If spotted early it’s treatable and preventable.

It’s fair to say that sepsis changed my life. It does that to lives.

Not long after Mark died I met Ron Daniels of the United Kingdom Sepsis Trust and began raising awareness in Wales. I’m now Executive Director of UK Sepsis Trust in Wales. I’ve met Ministers, cycled from West Wales to Westminster fund raising, I speak in schools, at hospitals, to the people in shops and on buses. We have engaged Welsh Government in our work, a cross-party group has been established.  People are listening.

I listen too; to survivors and how they have struggled post sepsis, to the bereaved and how they struggle too.

Awareness and education is everything. People need to know what sepsis is and what it can do. We need to get to a stage where public and health professionals alike are thinking about and recognise sepsis. They need to see it coming because it hides really well. As Mohammed Ali said, “His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see” Ironically he recently died from sepsis.

I’ve been helped along the way by some wonderful people both inside and outside healthcare. .  I am on the RRAILS steering group.   As such, I’ve seen first-hand the incredible hard work of dedicated NHS Wales staff committed to improve practice to improve outcomes. The programme is doing some great work striving to educate NHS Wales staff on Sepsis.  We want the same thing.

We’ve even won an award for it! It was fantastic for The Global Sepsis Alliance to recognise and reward NHS Wales for its awareness and education initiatives.


We cannot afford to lose momentum. There can be no resting on laurels. We should celebrate what has been done, be proud but also continue to challenge and champion what still needs to be done. For me, there has to be a collective effort from Community to Cabinet. We need a common language for patients and practice. The patients need a pathway, an All Wales pathway. If we speak about sepsis the same, we can think about sepsis the same. It brings us together and as we say here in Wales… “together, stronger”.

Want to get involved?


Mar 052014
Andrew Cooper

Andrew Cooper

Meet Chris Hancock. He’s passionate about helping colleagues in NHS Wales to identify and treat sepsis. He wants to see as many lives as possible saved from a condition that kills more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer and HIV/AIDS combined.

Last year, Chris added Twitter and blogging to his skill set to help him in his work. And since then, he’s joined – and started – conversations about sepsis with individuals and organisations in Wales, across the UK and around the world.

Those conversations have informed and shaped his thinking on the subject. They have enabled him to tap into the latest national and international research, build strategic relationships – as well as share the ground-breaking work colleagues in Wales are leading to address the challenge of this deadly condition. Continue reading »

Nov 282013

Some thoughts from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sepsis

Chris Hancock

Chris Hancock

To Westminster again. Although not, this time, by bike. And without Boris Johnson to meet us. Instead I was privileged to be representing the National Outreach Forum in Wales at the inaugural meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sepsis. Continue reading »

Sep 112013
Ruth Hussey

Ruth Hussey

I am delighted at the support that is gathering across Wales for World Sepsis Day on 13 September 2013.

This reflects a global movement. I know many medical leaders from countries across different continents are signing up to support World Sepsis Day.

Sepsis is a tier 1 priority in NHS Wales, so it is very important we make the most of World Sepsis Day to get the message out.

We know that sepsis is a serious illness – taking 1,800 lives in Wales every year. Astonishingly, sepsis accounts for more deaths annually than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined. Continue reading »

Jul 302013
Chris Hancock

Chris Hancock

After delivering a talk to a group of students, during which I had briefly mentioned sepsis, I was approached by one of the tutors.

“I was listening to what you said about sepsis,” she said. “I want to say thank you because now I think I finally know what my mother died from.”

This person was a nurse tutor and therefore could be presumed to have a reasonable knowledge of physiology and disease processes, and yet she had never heard of sepsis. This isn’t a surprise. Sepsis is largely unknown both to the public and also, worryingly, to healthcare professionals. Continue reading »

Feb 222013
Chris Hancock

Chris Hancock

When I worked in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a full term baby was admitted because of rapid deterioration in his condition due to sepsis. As we prepared to resuscitate the little boy the consultant, attempting to encourage us, cried: “Come on, we won’t lose this one.” 

He was wrong. In a matter of minutes this newborn baby, who had only a few hours before been thriving, was dead. I was struck then by how quickly sepsis kills and also the futility of leaving treatment too late. Continue reading »