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Gaps persist in hospital staff training for spotting sepsis

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Nearly half of hospital trusts in England are still not able to provide evidence of training for their staff in recognising sepsis, according to a report by MPs on tackling the condition.

The report, published today by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sepsis, has revealed a worrying lack of preparation to tackle the fatal condition among acute providers.

“Doctors and nurses on the front line need more support to deal with this potentially deadly condition”

Cheryl Gillan

The proportion of medical and nursing staff trained in sepsis recognition differed hugely between trusts, ranging from 8% to 100% with the mean being 66%.

The percentage of staff receiving such training correlated with the size of the trust to which they belonged. While large trusts were able to average 76% of trained staff, medium-sized trusts reported 67% and small trusts 59%.

The findings were based on 88 responses provided to Freedom of Information requests sent to 159 hospital trusts in England, including those with and without foundation status.

In response to its findings, the group of 33 MPs has called for the recording of the number of staff trained and duration of training received in sepsis to be made a statutory requirement.

It also called for training in the recognition and management of sepsis to be mandatory for all hospital medical and nursing staff, in addition to any induction courses.

Such training should be considered “competitively” in terms of priority against other elements of mandatory training, and consist of at least one hour repeated annually, to a national standard.

“Putting aside a specific budget for trusts to address sepsis seems like common sense”

Ron Daniels

Overall, the report warned that 88% of trusts could not provide evidence of a specific budget for tackling sepsis – which the APPG said compared “extremely unfavourably” with other life-threating conditions, such as stroke and cancer.

Among those trusts that did provide evidence of a sepsis budget, the average was just £64,660 – compared with £1.75m recorded for stroke and £4m for cancer. 

Meanwhile, 81% of trusts stated that sepsis should be a key priority, and planned to deliver the new Sepsis Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQuIN) Framework.

The CQuIN payment mechanism rewards trusts with investment for delivering improved sepsis performance.

Other findings from the APPG report included that 91,620 cases of sepsis were recorded nationwide last year – an annual increase of 68% – suggesting improved hospital recording.

But only 26% of trusts have dedicated sepsis teams, compared with 42% for heart attacks and 59% for strokes.

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sepsis

Cheryl Gillan

Cheryl Gillan, chair of the APPG for Sepsis and Conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham, said: “Doctors and nurses on the front line need more support to deal with this potentially deadly condition.

“This is a pressing issue and the UK Sepsis Trust will continue to work with the government, the NHS Cross System Programme Board and individual NHS Trusts to make sure that sepsis remains an urgent priority and that appropriate funding through CQuIN can be supported,” she said.    

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, added: “We know that proper sepsis care can save the NHS around £160m annually so putting aside a specific budget for trusts to address sepsis seems like common sense.

“It also puts sepsis on a par with other life threatening conditions,” he said. “We need to support those trusts that recognise current limitations and want to deliver real change.” 

“Many people just don’t understand that they are presenting sepsis symptoms”

Ron Daniels

A new survey from YouGov, commissioned by the UK Sepsis Trust, revealed low levels of sepsis awareness among the UK public. 

It showed that 55% of the UK public had not heard of the term ‘sepsis’ but that 32% of respondents did not know that sepsis is a medical emergency.

Dr Daniels said: “A lack of awareness of the term sepsis among the UK public, let alone its symptoms, presents a real challenge for hospitals across the UK.

“Many people just don’t understand that they are presenting sepsis symptoms and are unaware of the seriousness of their condition,” he added.

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