Identifying and treating sepsis could soon be given the same attention as reducing pressure ulcers or hospital acquired infections, with campaigners claiming Sir Bruce Keogh is “supportive in principle” of increased national focus on the condition.
UK Sepsis Trust chief executive Ron Daniels is due to make the case for action to an influential committee of MPs this week, and to discuss the trust’s proposals with NHS England next month.
He is calling for hospitals to be given a financial incentive to spot sepsis early, in a similar way to the drive to assess patients for risk of venous thromboembolism. The latter has been credited with a significant reduction in blood clots among inpatients.
He told HSJ ‘s sister title Nursing Times that NHS England medical director Sir Bruce was supportive of the idea.
Dr Daniels said the “horrific number of deaths from hospital acquired infections pales into insignificance compared with the number of sepsis deaths”.
He is calling for hospitals to be incentivised to screen patients who present with symptoms compatible with infection or abnormal physiology for sepsis.
This could be done by offering a commissioning for quality and innovation payment if they achieved a certain level. These payments have been used to incentivise a reduction in healthcare acquired infections and pressure ulcers.
“Sir Bruce Keogh is supportive in principle,” he said. “However, the commissioning framework for next year is unclear.”
Sepsis is a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and death, especially if it is not recognised early and treated promptly.
It is estimated to kill 37,000 people in the UK every year. Academics have calculated that at least 11,000 of these lives could be saved if basic good practice around sepsis care was followed.
If spotted promptly, sepsis can be treated with antibiotics. However, its symptoms are difficult to spot and patients can deteriorate quickly.
Many organisations already use the “Sepsis Six” bundle when a patient is suspected of having sepsis. The bundle was developed by the UK Sepsis Trust and championed by NHS England last week in a patient safety alert. It sets out six actions to be taken within the first hour of suspected sepsis, which can double a patient’s chance of survival.
However, in many cases sepsis is not identified or even considered until it is too late.
Lesley Durham, executive member of the National Outreach Forum, told Nursing Times that the NHS hierarchy could often delay prompt action even when sepsis had been spotted early.
“There are a lot of links in the chain that can delay treatment starting,” she said.
She added an extra incentive would be “fabulous”, although major problems with how sepsis is currently recorded would make it difficult to measure performance.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “NHS England is currently developing proposals for incentive schemes for commissioners and providers for 2015-16 and will publish details later in the year.”