NICE tells NHS staff to treat life-threatening sepsis within the hour

Sepsis must be treated by doctors within the hour once a patient is classed as high risk, a new draft standard from NICE has stated today.

The recommendation has come to prevent deaths from the condition, which comes about as a result of the body responding to infection by injuring its own tissue and organs.

Medical professionals in a range of care settings including paramedics, GPs and A&E staff have been urged to make efforts to check for specific symptoms of the life-threatening condition developing, including taking the patient’s temperature or heart rate, or checking for rashes and skin discolouration.

Patients displaying tell-tale symptoms should then be treated within the hour by an available doctor or nurse who can prescribe antibiotics and administer an IV drip to stop the infection from spreading and worsening the patient’s condition, if it will take more than an hour to take the patient to hospital then it has been advised that GPs or ambulance staff should administer antibiotics.

“Severe symptoms can develop in sepsis very quickly”, said NICE deputy CEO Professor Gillian Leng.

“If high-risk patients are not identified and treated promptly, people can be left with debilitating problems. In the worst cases, they may die.”

It is hoped that the introduction of the new standard can prevent avoidable deaths from sepsis by raising awareness of the condition with healthcare professionals. Prof Leng said: “We know from recent case reviews that there are inconsistencies in how people’s symptoms are assessed in different settings. More can be done to provide rapid treatment.”

Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust, added: “An emphasis on timely treatment and diagnosis is crucial if we are to improve outcomes for people with sepsis, and this quality standard could be a hugely impactful reinforcement of the recent guideline recommendation that sepsis is treated with same urgency as heart attacks.” 

In 2015, it was reported by the National Confidential Enquiry into patient Outcome and Death that 40% of people admitted to A&E with sepsis did not receive a review quickly enough by a senior clinician, whilst 29% of cases delayed giving patients antibiotics.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt added: “Every death from sepsis is a tragedy, yet too often the warning signs are missed - we need to get far better at spotting sepsis across the NHS and this advice shows how vital it is for clinicians to treat life-threatening symptoms as soon as possible.

Our relentless drive to raise awareness of this deadly condition, as well as the tireless efforts of campaigners and families who have lost loved ones, has seen a million leaflets and posters already distributed to GP clinics, hospitals and other public places - helping raise awareness to fight against this devastating condition.”

The draft quality standard is now out for public consultation until 7 April 2017.

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Jon Cohen   13/03/2017 at 14:19

This standard is welcome and a challenge. I have personally had two experiences of sepsis due to cellulitis. In the first , I was treated after significant delay at A&E necessitating a week of inpatient treatment and several weeks of recovery. Ten years later my most recent episode which was treated by IV antibiotic within an hour of presenting followed by out-patient daily infusions for 5 days. After the first two days I was feeling well enough to work from home. A massive improvement in experience and impact. The challenge now is to make that service and resources like point of care diagnostics available in primary care to ease the burden on both the acute provider,transport services and patients and carers.

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