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The National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South 4:34 pm, 23rd October 2019

Like Members on both sides of the House, my family and I rely on our national health service, and it has always been there when we needed it most. It was there when my two children were born in local hospitals, caring for them when they were at their most vulnerable and looking after my wife through complications and immediately after their births. Then, at the start of 2017, the NHS was there for me when I unexpectedly became ill very quickly and developed severe septic shock.

Sepsis is a nasty condition. It is fast, devastating and indiscriminate. It affects people irrespective of wealth, gender, or age. In my case, I came back to Parliament after the Christmas recess with a cold, an experience with which most Members will be familiar, and the cold developed into a sore throat. Within days, I was at Russells Hall Hospital A&E and then in intensive care. Within a few hours, I was in an induced coma, where I would remain for the next 11 days.

I received incredible treatment and care from our national health service, from doctors, from nurses, from ancillary staff, from every single member of team, and I will always owe them everything. I was also incredibly lucky. At one point when I was unconscious, the doctors had called in my parents to explain that I probably had about a 10% chance of waking up. Even with the incredible skills and dedication of the hospital staff, there was also a huge amount of luck involved in my pulling through.

Of course, not everyone is as lucky. Of the 250,000 cases of sepsis in the United Kingdom each year, at least 52,000 people lose their lives—a little more than are killed by breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer combined. It amounts to about 80 deaths in each of our constituencies. Indeed, 13 people somewhere in the United Kingdom have probably lost their lives to sepsis since the start of this debate. Each year tens of thousands more people suffer permanent and life-changing after effects that may leave them with permanent disabilities or health conditions.

A report presented to the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine last year found that sepsis mortality rates in Britain had not fallen as quickly as those in some other countries between 1985 and 2015, and there are many possible contributory factors. Some of it may be down to genuine differences in how sepsis is diagnosed and how causes of death recorded in the United Kingdom. On top of the roll-out of the second generation of the national early warning score system, I urge the Minister to consider a national registry to measure the extent of sepsis so that we can properly rate how effective we are in tackling the causes. Some of the differences may also be down to some clinicians being slow to follow the new systems and procedures. We have seen that in my local hospital, where I was treated so well, because CQC reports have made it clear that cultural resistance to change has been a problem, so we need better commissioning levers to incentivise best practice.

I am delighted to see measures in this Queen’s Speech that will we hope address one of the big causes of avoidable deaths: human error. The Health Service Safety Investigations Bill will help to discover the truth rather than to apportion blame. It will provide for the world’s first independent body that will investigate patient safety concerns to ensure that we do not have repeated mistakes that can cause further unnecessary deaths.