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Sepsis 'as urgent as heart attack', says NICE


Sepsis should be treated with the same urgency as a heart attack, new official guidance has suggested.

Patients at high risk of developing sepsis should be taken to hospital in an ambulance, states the guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Once in hospital they should be seen immediately by a senior nurse or doctor who can start treatment, adds the document.

The new guidelines aim to promote best practice in recognising, diagnosing and managing sepsis, a condition that affects about 150,000 people in the UK each year and kills around 44,000, according to the UK Sepsis Trust.

”If there is any delay in spotting the signs we will fail patients by leaving them with debilitating problems or in the worst cases people will die”

Professor Mark Baker

All health professionals – no matter where they work in the NHS – need to consider the possibility of sepsis in every patient who may have an infection, the guidance stresses.

Professor Saul Faust from the University of Southampton, who chaired the guideline group, said the only way clinicians could ensure a diagnosis wasn’t missed was to question whether the condition was present earlier on.

Quick identification and early treatment are key to preventing deaths from the condition. Yet a report published last year found delays in more than a third of cases.

The report, by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death, found many hospitals had no formal protocols in place to recognise sepsis.

“When hospitals are well prepared, clinicians do better at responding to patients with sepsis,” said Professor Mark Baker, director of the NICE’s centre for guidelines.

“If there is any delay in spotting the signs we will fail patients by leaving them with debilitating problems or in the worst cases people will die,” he added.

While the NICE guidelines urge prompt action and treatment, they also advocate sensible use of antibiotics, which should only be given to those who meet the high risk criteria set out in the document.

The UK Sepsis Trust is now working with NICE to update clinical toolkits in line with the new guidance.


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