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Congress hears call for better nurse training in spotting sepsis

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Nursing staff need better training in identifying sepsis, warn leading nurses, who are speaking out to coincide with a powerful patient presentation at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference.

Healthcare staff and the public must be educated on the signs of sepsis to “save tens of thousands of lives lost each year”, they said in a statement today.

“Two hours of training for each nursing professional could massively reduce the £15bn cost of sepsis”

Pippa Bagnall

Rose Gallagher, RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control, said: “Without the right number of nurses with the right training, we will struggle to identify and manage potential cases of sepsis.

“And we must have better public awareness to help people recognise the potential symptoms of sepsis and seek help quickly,” she said.

“Patients who survive sepsis are also left with long-term physical and psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, fatigue, decreased cognitive function, anxiety, depression and insomnia,” she noted.

“Life can be challenging not only for patients but also for their families,” she said. “The services to support these patients varies across the country and there is a need for properly-resourced follow up services to support their emotional, psychological and physical rehabilitation needs.”

Pippa Bagnall, a fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, added: “Investment in nursing staff education shouldn’t be seen as a cost – it’s an investment that everyone benefits from.”

“Without the right number of nurses with the right training, we will struggle”

Rose Gallagher

Ms Bagnall, a former NHS chief executive, compared the multi-billion pound cost of treating sepsis to the cost of introducing short mandatory training for professionals.

“Two hours of training for each nursing professional could massively reduce the £15bn cost of sepsis to the NHS,” she said.

Their call comes as nurses at RCN congress in Liverpool heard from sepsis survivor Tom Ray, who is a quadruple amputee as a result of delayed diagnosis and treatment.

In his keynote address, Mr Ray told delegates at the conference that nurses must be supported to identify and treat sepsis.

Along with his wife and carer Nic and Ms Bagnall, he called for mandatory training in sepsis for all members of the nursing and midwifery professions.

In an interview with Nursing Times in 2017, Mr Ray also highlighted that extreme pressure on nursing and other NHS staff was making it harder for them to act quickly to prevent life-threatening sepsis.

Sepsis kills five people every hour in the UK and affects 25,000 children each year, according to the Sepsis Trust.

In addition, Mr Ray called for nationwide rollout of a new system to identify deterioration in child patients being treated in hospitals and other settings.

Elements of the scheme that monitor vital signs, including heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and temperature, have been tested at specialist institutions including Great Ormond Street Hospital.

At present, there is not a universal, nationally-validated system in England despite key profile child deaths, noted Mr Ray.

“Nurses have been calling for a national standardised PEWS system for children for over 10 years now”

Fiona Smith

Rolling out such a scheme would enable signs of deterioration in any patient’s condition to be identified and acted upon quickly, he told delegates.

He said a uniform Paediatric Early Warning Sign Score (PEWS) system for children in England would mirror the National Early Warning Score for adults being rolled out since last year.

Speaking ahead of the speech and debate today, Mr Ray said: “Poor outcomes for patients are equally dramatic for staff, friends and family and they will continue to happen if nursing staff are over stretched, under trained and unsupported.

“Damage and even death from sepsis will continue until there is a commitment to educate all staff to give every patient the care and attention that is needed to spot and treat sepsis as fast as possible,” he said.

Fiona Smith, professional lead for children and young people at the RCN, added: “Nurses have been calling for a national standardised PEWS system for children for over 10 years now. Progress on delivering this has been too slow.”

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