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'Clear gaps' in sepsis training for NHS staff to be tackled

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“Clear gaps” in sepsis education and training for health and social care staff are to be addressed in a new drive by the national workforce planning body to improve identification of and care for those with the potentially life-threatening condition.

Research by Health Education England revealed while almost all hospitals had sepsis training for nursing staff, around a quarter did not provide this across all nursing specialties.

In addition, concerns about the lack of training in the community and social care organisations were raised by HEE.

”There is significant variation in the [sepsis] training provided to different groups of healthcare staff and across different healthcare settings”


In HEE’s analysis of sepsis education among different staff groups and settings, out of the 25 NHS hospital trusts that responded to its survey, more than 90% said they provided sepsis training to nurses.

But only 78% said the training was given to nurses working across all specialities within the hospital.

For those trusts where this didn’t occur, they said sepsis training was offered only in certain departments – most commonly emergency departments and critical care.

A total of 17 – or 68% - of the trusts said they provided sepsis training for healthcare assistants.

Meanwhile, two out of the three clinical commissioning groups that responded to HEE confirmed they provided education and training to all medical and nursing staff in the community.

In its report on sepsis education, HEE added that there was “little evidence of sepsis training specifically for care home staff”.

It did not contact care homes directly but it was told by the Registered Nursing Home Association and training organisation Skills for Care that they were not aware sepsis education aimed at care home workers was being provided.

Meanwhile it noted there was “some uncertainty” about the adoption of the new international definition of sepsis, updated in February 2016, which moves away from an excessive focus on inflammation for diagnosis.

It also highlighted that most training materials relating to recognition, diagnosis and early management of sepsis would need to be updated in light of the first sepsis guideline by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, published over the summer.

“High quality education and training is key to enabling our workforce to keep one step ahead of this terrible condition”

Lisa Bayliss-Pratt

In its report - Getting it right: The current state of sepsis education and training for healthcare staff across England - HEE said there were “clear gaps” in the provision of sepsis education and training in England, with no strategic view up until now.

“Although there are many resources available to assist with sepsis training, for example those developed by the UK Sepsis Trust, there has been no clear direction with regard to what training is required, how it should be delivered, and to whom,” it said.

“As a result there is significant variation in the training provided to different groups of healthcare staff and across different healthcare settings,” it added.

Health Education England

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Lisa Bayliss-Pratt

The body made a total of 21 recommendations for itself, employers and others to help bring in improvements.

These included for all healthcare professional undergraduate courses to include training in the recognition and management of sepsis in a clinical context within their final year, and for training materials to be updated in line with NICE guidance.

It called on employers to ensure training reaches all healthcare staff, not just those who are undertaking a formal training programme or attending regular staff inductions, and to use serious incidents relating to sepsis as learning opportunities.

HEE said its actions would include developing a guide for training providers on updating educational resources to align with NICE guidance, and that it would work with stakeholders to ensure sepsis training materials were available for residential and care home staff.

Professor Lisa Bayliss Pratt, HEE’s director of nursing and deputy director of education and quality, said: “High quality education and training is key to enabling our workforce to keep one step ahead of this terrible condition.

“This report provides us with many helpful recommendations on how we can continue to improve the education and training across the whole NHS, so that all health and care staff can spot the early warning signs of sepsis and take appropriate action, which should lead to saving patients’ lives.”

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