“Terrifying” new figures showing a doubling of cases of sepsis in England over two years have sparked a new call for action to address nurse shortages.
The number of recorded incidents of sepsis jumped from 169,215 in 2015-16 to 350,344 in 2017-18, according to NHS England data obtained by law firm Simpson Millar.
“We need a proper workforce strategy to make sure we have the right nurses in the right places at the right times”
Nurse leaders warned that staffing challenges were threatening progress on sepsis, while noting that clinicians were now able to detect more cases because of improved training and tools such as the National Early Warning Score 2 (NEWS2) system.
Suman Shrestha, professional lead for critical care at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Any rise in the number of sepsis cases in worrying.
“Patients who survive sepsis undergo traumatic experiences and potentially long-term effects,” he added.
“While nurses welcome and are making full use of the recently-introduced NEWS2 system to screen for sepsis – which are helping us detect cases that otherwise would not have made the statistics – under-staffing inevitably makes it harder for them to spend sufficient time assessing and monitoring patients,” added Mr Shrestha.
“We need a proper workforce strategy to make sure we have the right nurses in the right places at the right times,” he urged.
David Thomas, a medical negligence lawyer from Simpson Millar, said he was concerned that the message about the importance of spotting the warning signs of sepsis was not getting through to all in the health system.
He said: “It’s terrifying to hear that the number of cases of sepsis have spiked and, unfortunately, it’s something that we have seen first-hand, and the devasting consequences it can have on people’s lives when it goes undiagnosed.”
Mr Thomas represents a mother-of three who had to have both of her legs, her right arm and the fingers of her left hand amputated after contracting sepsis whilst in hospital.
He said “multiple red flags” that would have indicated that the woman was at risk of sepsis went unnoticed and almost cost the patient her life.
“It’s terrifying to hear that the number of cases of sepsis have spiked”
The trust involved had since accepted that the tragedy could been avoided if it had spotted the warning signs by following the sepsis protocol, according to Simpson Millar.
“We hope that these new statistics will encourage health staff to learn from past mistakes and be extra vigilant of the warning signs, so they can act quickly and effectively to avoid any further injury,” said Mr Thomas.
It comes after a call was made at this year’s Royal College of Nursing congress for nurses to be given better nurse training to identify sepsis.
A keynote address was given at the conference by sepsis survivor Tom Ray, who is a quadruple amputee as a result of delayed diagnosis and treatment.
NHS England has been approached for comment.