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Fresh drive against sepsis focuses on nurses and care homes

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Thousands of community nurses, healthcare assistants in care homes and health visitors can expect training on how to look out for signs and symptoms of sepsis, as part of a renewed drive to improve treatment of the condition.

As part of an ongoing commitment to reduce the number of patients affected by sepsis, the government and NHS England has launched a new action plan to coincide with World Sepsis Day.

“This new plan will ensure more health professionals get the training, advice and targeted support to tackle this silent killer”

Jeremy Hunt

An outline of the plan was revealed this morning in a statement by the Department of Health, ahead of the publication of the full document, which included moves to boost training, advice and support in identifying and treating the condition for nursing staff.

It follows the first national action plan to tackle sepsis, which was published in 2015 and that saw measures introduced across England, but particularly targeted at hospitals and GP surgeries.

Details of the new plan, revealed today on NHS England’s website, include further actions to improve the response across the wider health system, while also improving how sepsis is tracked and recorded.

Actions to be outlined in more detail today include a “new, clear definition” on adult sepsis for clinicians, so sepsis is identified and recorded quicker, said the Department of Health.

“This additional set of proposed actions reflects the desire of health professionals to tackle this dangerous condition”

Bruce Keogh

The DH said there would also be educational materials designed to ensure awareness among all primary care, pharmacists and healthcare professionals.

In addition, care homes, pharmacists and other areas of the NHS that deal with frail and older people will be specifically targeted to prevent sepsis, said the department in a statement.

The plan itself said an “indicator” on sepsis would be added to the Improvement Assessment Framework for clinical commissioning groups to encourage local commissioners to fund and develop training for staff in their area.

The indicator is due to be published this autumn and would encourage clinical commissioning groups to develop a strategy to raise awareness of sepsis and the use of NEWS (National Early Warning Scores) among healthcare practitioners in services they commission, said the plan.

CCGs will be expected to demonstrate and evidence that they have done this, said the plan, adding that Health Education England had provided and will maintain a set of educational resources to do this and it is expected that these will be referenced and promoted.

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy Hunt

“We are focussing in particular on education and training for community pharmacists, community nurses, healthcare assistants and health visitors,” stated the 16-page action plan.

It noted that Health Education England had developed educational modules on sepsis for community pharmacists and HCAs.

“Implementation of the CCG IAF indicator on sepsis will help embed the use of these educational resources,” it said. “In addition the regular inclusion of sepsis within relevant resuscitation courses will help to embed knowledge about sepsis among hospital clinicians.”

Known as the “silent killer”, there are around 123,000 cases of sepsis each year in England and an estimated 37,000 deaths are associated with the condition.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has written a blog to acompany the plan, said: “While the NHS has taken major steps in recent years to improve how it responds to sepsis – actions that have saved nearly a thousand lives – there is still more work to do to protect the many thousands who develop this dangerous condition each year.

“We need every part of our health system on the highest possible alert for sepsis, and this new plan will ensure more health professionals get the training, advice and targeted support to tackle this silent killer,” he said.

Sir Bruce Keogh, national medical director for NHS England, highlighted that sepsis could be “treacherous because it can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages and difficult to treat if not diagnosed early”.

“It is frightening for families and challenging for clinicians, so NHS England is supporting hospitals to make sure that the right resources are in place to make it easier for clinicians to diagnose sepsis and treat it really quickly before it takes hold,” said Sir Bruce.

Bruce keogh

Bruce keogh

Bruce Keogh

He added: “Since the publication of our first plan in 2015, a lot has been done and this additional set of proposed actions reflects the desire of health professionals to tackle this dangerous condition.”

The 2015 action plan on sepsis introduced a series of measures to make sure patients get screened for sepsis and treated as quickly as possible.

The DH said screening rates of patients within an hour in accident and emergency had increased from 52% in 2015 to 85%, while screening rates had risen from 62% in 2015 to 69% for inpatients.

The DH also flagged improvements in treatment, with the number of inpatients getting treated with antibiotics within an hour of their screening rising from 58% to 76%, and in A&E from 49% to 61%.

As a result of these two improvements in care, since 2015, 998 lives had been saved from faster screening and treatment of patients with sepsis, said the department.

In addition, it highlighted an Increase healthcare professional awareness and understanding of sepsis via educational materials – aimed at a range of healthcare professionals including primary care.

Meanwhile, it noted that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence was publishing a final quality standard on sepsis, setting out what good care and treatment of sepsis looked like. This document is due later this month.

Last December, the government launched a public awareness campaign with the UK Sepsis Trust, and in April NHS Digital published guidance on coding to improve recording and reporting of sepsis.

Nursing Times has today launched a new learning unit to help nurses on recognising sepsis and talking action.

As reported by Nursing Times, over the last 18 months or so, there has been growing momentum to improve sepsis care, with initiatives launched by nurses at ward, trust, and regional level.

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