The vast majority of NHS hospitals in England are using officially endorsed clinical tools designed to improve the response to life-threatening sepsis, new research has found.
However, MPs and campaigners say more still needs to be done to raise awareness of the “hugely under-acknowledged” condition among healthcare professionals and the public in order to boost survival rates.
“Sepsis is more prevalent than heart attacks and claims more lives than any cancer”
A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sepsis (see PDF attached below) found most hospitals and trusts were using screening and treatment tools developed by the UK Sepsis Trust, which have just been endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Responses to a Freedom of Information request showed 80% of trusts that responded were using the Red Flag Sepsis tool to prompt nurses and doctors to screen for sepsis.
Meanwhile, nearly all - 151 out of 158 trusts that responded – were using the Sepsis 6 treatment pathway designed to help clinicians take swift and effective action to manage the condition.
The report said the fact the vast majority of NHS trusts were using the UK Sepsis Trust tools was “excellent news”.
However, it said more work was needed to raise awareness of sepsis, which claims the lives of at least 46,000 people in the UK each year.
In a foreword to the report Christina Rees MP, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sepsis, described sepsis as a “hugely under-acknowledged” condition.
“Despite many people never having heard of the condition, often referred to as a ‘silent killer’, it is the most common reason for intensive care admissions in England, more prevalent than heart attacks and claims more lives than any cancer,” she wrote.
While take-up of the sepsis tools was high, the report said all NHS organisations should be encouraged to use them.
Meanwhile, it highlighted the need for better national data to aid efforts to improve sepsis care.
One of the report’s key recommendations was the creation of “a national, truly interoperable dataset to track patients with sepsis, the quality of their care and its impact on outcomes”.
The report also called for a government-funded public awareness campaign to be led by the UK Sepsis Trust “to ensure that people are aware of this condition and present early, giving themselves a better chance of survival”.
“The problem of sepsis is more prevalent than ever”
Dr Ron Daniels
Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said it was clear progress was being made but stressed sepsis continued to be a big problem with about 250,000 cases in the UK each year.
“This report shows that we’ve made great strides in the right direction when it comes to caring for those with sepsis, but it also shows that there is more to be done to improve sepsis care,” he said.
“Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of trusts are using our clinical tools, the problem of sepsis is more prevalent than ever,” he added.
He emphasised better sharing of key data on sepsis was a key element.
To coincide with the report the UK Sepsis Trust announced it would be working with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine to improve data collection and sharing.
The collaboration will see the two bodies work together to improve “data interoperability” between hospitals supported by the Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Digital.
“We must now urgently focus our attentions on further improving the identification and treatment of sepsis. Using interoperable data shared between hospitals and trusts will enable healthcare professionals to identify more accurately those most at risk, and in most urgent need of care,” said Dr Daniels.
The report was welcomed by NHS national director for patient safety Dr Aidan Fowler.
“We welcome the progress that has been made while recognising that there is more to be done as we continue to work on deterioration including sepsis, and welcome the UK Sepsis Trust’s input to that important work,” he said.
Meanwhile Nicola Bent, director of the System Engagement Programme at NICE, said the body was pleased to endorse UK Sepsis Trust’s clinical sepsis tools.
“UKST’s screening and action tools accurately reflect NICE’s evidence-based guidance on sepsis. We’re therefore pleased to endorse these resources to help patients with sepsis receive prompt and effective care,” she said.