Hospitals must take action to reduce the toll of the ‘hidden killer’ sepsis.
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan and rollout of the new national early warning score (NEWS2) system, health professionals will be obliged to constantly screen for sepsis and initiate the sepsis six as soon as it is suspected.
Hospital teams will also be instructed to take “sufficient note” of non-specific symptoms and concerns expressed by relatives and carers such as acute changes in behaviour.
When patients are diagnosed and treated for suspected sepsis, hospital consultants should be ‘called for help’ if they fail to show signs of improvement within an hour.
Sepsis is caused when the body responds poorly to a bacterial infection and attacks its own tissues and organs, and while early treatment is effective, the condition is hard to spot because there isn’t a simple definitive test or obvious symptom for it which means that too often, treatment starts too late.
The initiative comes as the NHS prepares to pilot new clinical standards aimed at providing swifter diagnosis and treatment for patients with suspected sepsis.
Patients should be ‘seen as quickly as possible’.
Professor Bryan Williams, chair of the NEWS Development Group and Royal College of Physicians clinical lead for NEWS, said: “It is vital that patients with suspected sepsis are seen as quickly as possible, and this new initiative from NHS England is very important in ensuring we get the best opportunity to act quickly and save lives of people with suspected sepsis.
Dr Tim Nutbeam, Clinical Advisor for the UK Sepsis Trust, said: “The UKST welcomes this initiative; if delivered correctly it will ensure rapid and effective treatment for the patients who need it most, whilst ensuring that senior clinical decision-makers are supported in making informed, balanced decisions in relation to the prescribing of antibiotics.
“We have been working with NHS England for the past three years to improve the recognition and management of sepsis in hospitals. This next step will ensure that every patient receives the attention they require within existing resource.”
The new guidance has been drawn up by NHS England in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of GPs, NICE and the UK Sepsis Trust (UKST) and trusts will be contractually obliged to ensure they fully comply with the guidance coming in from April 2019.