A new campaign has been launched by West Midlands Ambulance Service highlighting the dangers of sepsis.

Each of the 47 new ambulances that will be introduced to the service carry information about the condition – also known as bloody poisoning – which is the reaction to an infection in which the body attacks its own organs and tissues.

If not spotted and treated quickly, it can rapidly lead to organ failure and death.

The numbers are staggering – every year in the UK, 250,000 people are affected by sepsis; 44,000 people die and 60,000 suffer permanent, life-changing after-effects. It’s more common than heart attacks and kills more people than bowel, breast and prostate cancer and road accidents combined.

“For a condition that takes 44,000 lives every year, it is astonishing how few people know what it is. That’s one of the reasons we want to help highlight the dangers of sepsis to the public,” said WMAS chief executive, Anthony Marsh.

“Our staff know better than most just how important it is to recognise the condition and to act quickly to help save lives.

“We have issued guidance to all of our frontline staff on what to look out for, based on the work of the charity and its research. In many respects putting this poster on the side of our ambulances is one way that we can say ‘thank you’ for their help.

“If it saves even one life then it has been worth it, but because these vehicles will be based across the West Midlands we hope as many people as possible will see the information and take note of the warning signs, so that many more lives can be saved.

“We want everyone to know the phrase: ‘Just ask; could it be sepsis? It’s a simple question but it could save a life.’”

Unveiling the vehicles was Melissa Mead, who has campaigned to raise awareness of the condition after her one-year-old son William tragically died after a range of health providers failed to spot the condition.

She was accompanied by Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust.

Dr Daniels, said: “We’re delighted that West Midlands Ambulance Service is joining the fight against sepsis and working with the UK Sepsis Trust to raise much-needed awareness among healthcare professionals and the public.

“As a West Midlands-based charity, it’s a privilege to be collaborating with our local ambulance service, and we hope ambulance fleets all over the UK will continue to follow suit.”