New NHS guidelines have stated that symptoms related to sepsis should be treated more urgently. These guidelines have been developed by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and put into place by NHS improvement.
They say that both doctors and patients should be encouraged to treat possible symptoms of sepsis with the same level of urgency as chest pains which could be associated with heart attacks. This includes seeking out of hours care rather than waiting for normal surgery hours to resume. Parents are also being urged to speak up and demand fast attention from medical staff if they suspect their child is exhibiting symptoms of sepsis.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, occurs when the immune system reacts to an infection in the body. One of the most important things to note about sepsis is that it is a time critical medical emergency for which early recognition and treatment are essential. This is why out of hours medical care is integral to treatment.
If not treated immediately, sepsis can seriously affect tissue and organs, leading to organ failure and septic shock – which has a 50% mortality rate. It is delayed recognition which causes sepsis, and its related problems kill around 44,000 people every year in the UK.
The new Safe System Framework specifically encourages parents and doctors to be alert to sepsis symptoms in children, as this life threatening condition is the leading cause of rapid deterioration in children. Parents and practitioners need to be on the lookout for the following symptoms; racing heartbeat, extremely high or low temperature, shivering, dizzy spells, disorientation, sickness and mottled skin. These are just a few of the possible sepsis indicators which have been listed in the new NICE guidelines.
Delayed Response in Treatment of Sepsis
A 2015 report into the treatment of sepsis found delays in the diagnosis of 36% of all cases of the condition. The watchdog which carried out this review was supported by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and found that one of the biggest problems was parents not being listened to or taken seriously enough when they raised concerns over their children’s’ symptoms.
The report also found that 26% of preventable deaths in the UK were directly related to patients being incorrectly monitored and failure to act on signs of rapid deterioration. These findings coincide with a 2016 review of children’s cardiac services in Bristol which found that there was an urgent need to improve communication between clinicians and parents, following the preventable deaths of seven children.
The national director of NHS patient safety, Dr Mike Durki, has said:
“Too often parents with unwell children aren’t encouraged enough by medical staff to raise concerns about their child’s care. Time and time again – and in some cases tragically too late – we see that some children could have received better health care if health care providers worked with parents to understand and treat deterioration in health”
The reports are some of the main reasons behind parents being urged to make full use of out of hours services, even if they are not completely certain that their child’s symptoms are sepsis related.
Action Being Taken
Steps have been put into action to ensure that health care practitioners are more alert to the possibility of sepsis symptoms in their patients and to communicate better with parents who have concerns for their children.
The head of the group which developed the new NICE guidelines, Professor Saul Faust said:
“Anyone can succumb to sepsis. We want clinicians to start asking ‘could this be sepsis?’ much earlier on so they can rule it out or get people the treatment they need. The thinking should be similar to considering that chest pain could be heart related.”
For more information on sepsis, please visit NHS Choices.