Clinicians say more lives are now being saved with comparative figures showing rapid improvements in diagnosing and treating sepsis in Gloucestershire.

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by an infection. Also known as blood poisoning, sepsis is often hard to spot. However, the good news is that it can be treated easily if it is detected early.

With this in mind, clinicians in Gloucestershire have been raising awareness of sepsis across a range of non-hospital health settings such as care homes and GP surgeries, to help ensure that it gets recognised and diagnosed promptly.

GPs and other healthcare professionals are being encouraged to use a calculator called NEWS (National Early Warning Score) which gives patients a score based on physical measures such as pulse and blood pressure. This helps to identify anyone who is unwell, particularly anyone whose condition has deteriorated, and ensure they get the care they need.

Dr Hein Le Roux, Deputy Clinical Chair at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“Our understanding of patients with sepsis has changed; we are now aware of how common it is and that it can arise from common infections such as pneumonia, gut problems, skin conditions or urinary complications.

Crucially, we also know that identifying sepsis early and getting treatment started straight away can really can improve patients’ recovery.

In Gloucestershire, lots of clinicians are now using the National Early Warning Scoring system, which is proving to be really helpful, helping us to identify sepsis and prioritise the patient’s care.

We were delighted that our awareness-raising work resulted in us winning the Nursing Times Patient Safety Award.”

The scoring system makes clinicians look at five routinely monitored observations, including blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation. The system then assigns a score to help the clinician determine how unwell the patient is.

Gloucestershire’s two main hospitals, which are run by Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, were highlighted by NHS England as being amongst the most improved and in the top 10% of Trusts in England for identifying and treating sepsis.

Director of Safety at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Andrew Seaton, explains:

“Over the last few years we have successfully developed a new approach to better identify and treat sepsis. We aim to start treatment within an hour of diagnosis to reduce the risk of serious complications.

Our clinical staff and pharmacy team have developed an ongoing programme of continuous improvement. We have reviewed and refined our approach to help our clinicians identify sepsis at the earliest opportunity and give patients with symptoms in our busy A&E department antibiotics quickly.”

Thanks to these initiatives, Gloucestershire was asked to share its approach with NHS England to help other organisations.