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Dear patient, please don’t expose your wounds to post them on Facebook

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Would you risk sepsis to display a surgical wound on social media? Midwives in Hull are finding that new mothers are removing their dressing so they can post photos of their caesarean section wounds on Facebook.

The midwifery team at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust are concerned that women are increasing their risk of infection and in particular of sepsis, which is an increased risk in this patient group.

I was surprised that women would take this risk as it feels like the message about sepsis is being well disseminated to health professionals and the general public. But this story shows there is still more to do.

So far sepsis has been highlighted in many TV and radio shows, for example Call the Midwife, Holby City, Hollyoaks and The Archers, where one of the main characters, a young woman, died a few days after cutting her arm on a rusty nail.

“It is good to see some healthcare providers making special provision for sepsis”

Tom Ray, a sepsis survivor who inspired the film Starfish, spoke at RCN Congress this year about his experience of the infection, the result of a cut to his gum during a visit to the dentist. He was in a coma for three months and lost all his limbs and part of his face. Mr Ray called for more support for and mandatory training of all health professionals.

In addition, the RCN has been calling for a national rollout of an early warning system for children to help with sepsis identification and reduce mortality in the 25,000 cases of sepsis in children each year.

It is good to see some healthcare providers making special provision for sepsis. Last week a trust In Shropshire announced it has appointed its first sepsis nurse practitioner to focus on the screening and treatment of sepsis patients as well as providing education and training.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust’s appointment is part of wider work including a growing team of sepsis champions who meet monthly to learn about the ongoing improvements around sepsis and then share the information with their teams.

Plans are also in place to roll out a sepsis patient group directive, which will allow senior nurses to quickly initiate the drugs and fluids required to treat sepsis within a one-hour time frame.

Sepsis has significant mortality and morbidity implications. There are around 250,000 cases in the UK every year and it claims the lives of almost one in five of those who contract it. This leaves a significant group who are sepsis survivors.

This week in our clinical selection we highlight post-sepsis syndrome, which is becoming increasingly recognised and presents with a range of physical and psychological symptoms.

As our expert author details, research suggests at least one in six sepsis survivors have severe and persistent impairments, with another study of survivors finding that physical and cognitive decline in their health was still evident at least eight years later. This article explores how nurses can help and support this group.

“This is progress, but we have further to go”

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sepsis published this month found that more still needs to be done to raise awareness of the “hugely under-acknowledged” condition among health professionals and the public in order to boost survival rates.

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 and that nearly 100% of trusts used The UK Sepsis Trust’s treatment pathway, the Sepsis Six.

This is progress but we have further to go to ensure that both health professionals and the general public are fully and safely sepsis aware.

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