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Sepsis awareness

Sepsis is a common and potentially life-threatening condition triggered by an infection which causes the body’s immune system to go into overdrive, and if it not treated quickly, it can lead to multiple organ failure and death. It claims more lives than lung cancer, and is the second biggest killer after cardiovascular disease. There are an estimated 123,000 cases of sepsis per year in England, and around 36,800 associated deaths. In many cases however, sepsis is avoidable and treatable and early identification is key to successfully treating sepsis.

Through the cross-system expert sepsis board, led by NHS England, we have contributed to this cross-system work which led to the publication of an action plan in December 2015 for improving outcomes for patients with sepsis. Our work is supported by external partners and stakeholders through a HEE sepsis working group, who provide feedback and help to guide our work. Chaired by Andrew Frankel, Post-graduate Dean, the group includes representatives from key membership organisations, Public Health England and a patient representative.


Think sepsis: a film for all healthcare workers involved in the care of sick children​

Our areas of work include:

We have scoped the current provision of sepsis education and training for healthcare staff in England, to help us to better understand what resources are already in use and where gaps exist.

The report 'Getting it right - the current state of sepsis education and training for healthcare staff across England', available below, highlights numerous examples of good practice in relation to sepsis education and training. It also identifies clear gaps in the provision of sepsis education and training, particularly for healthcare staff working in community and primary care settings, management and executive staff within healthcare providers, and staff in permanent and non-training roles.

There is still more work to be done to ensure that all healthcare staff in England can access up-to-date education and training about sepsis. This report includes recommendations to ourselves and other stakeholders in order to achieve this. The executive summary and full report can be accessed below.

We have supported the development of an innovative interactive film, Project Transform,  which helps all healthcare professionals understand the common factors that may delay or hinder the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis, and therefore spot and treat sepsis earlier.

Created by the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in conjunction with The Health Foundation, the UK Sepsis Trust and ourselves, the film explores the features that make the diagnosis of sepsis difficult, the use of safety netting and empowering the most junior members of the team. We hope that this film will increase awareness of sepsis and the signs, to help staff diagnose and treat sepsis earlier.

Working with partners, we have developed an awareness-raising teaching aid to help health care professionals spot and respond to the warning signs of sepsis in children.

The short film, available to view above or on youtube, features the story of Jason (who is an actor in real life) and Clara Watkins who tragically lost their daughter Maude aged just three to undiagnosed sepsis in 2011. The film highlights the key signs that healthcare workers should be looking out for and asks them to think: ‘could this be sepsis?’ when assessing and diagnosing patients.

Aimed at clinical trainers, although useful for all healthcare staff, the film accompanies a new e-learning package on sepsis produced for GPs and health professionals working across primary care including nurses, health visitors, midwives, pharmacists and paramedics.  Both follow the recommendations of the new NICE guidelines on sepsis recognition, diagnosis and early management.

In spring 2018, we launched a new e-learning package aimed at improving the rates of accurate diagnosis and treatment of sepsis in children at an event in the House of Commons. The ‘Think Sepsis’ programme aims to identify and manage sepsis in paediatrics is a new type of training for clinicians which can be used in face to face sessions or independently through e-learning. The films follow the patient journey from diagnosis to treatment, as the parents each talk about their experience of sepsis, their child’s treatment and diagnosis of the condition and the impact that it has had on their families.

We would encourage all healthcare staff to access the associated educational materials on our e-learning for healthcare website.

Identifying and managing sepsis in primary care is an important measure in reducing deaths, with 70% of sepsis cases developing within primary care. We have created an e-learning module on sepsis in primary care, which is available free to NHS staff.

We have also collaborated with the Royal College of General Practitioners to develop a sepsis toolkit made up of a series of educational materials, up-to-date guidance and training resources to support GPs and healthcare professionals to identify and manage the condition in patients.

We have launched an e-learning resource for executive, non-executive and management level staff in trusts on sepsis.

This training programme helps boards understand the clinical priorities within healthcare and how boards and clinical leaders can work together to deliver of high-quality safe care. It encourages engagement and debate within a trust, to understand locally what appropriate care looks like and what a board could do to deal with specific issues within their trust to maintain good standards on the quick recognition, management and treatment of sepsis and in improving standards of antibiotic prescribing.

This learning resource supports the NHS Long Term Plan vision for the NHS and supports the NHS Standard Contract requirements for 2019/20 on a number of key actions on sepsis, deterioration and antimicrobial resistance. For example, ensuring resources are available for clinical expertise and senior leadership at all levels and build on existing work on preventing patient deterioration including Sepsis and National Early Warning Score (NEWS2).

Access the e-learning

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