Academic Health Science NetworkDoctors and nurses in the region have been working collaboratively for over a year to ensure the effective recognition and response to sepsis.

The life-threatening condition has been thrust into the spotlight on Wednesday (13th July) following the publication of new national guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)[i].

The guidance places emphasis on the importance of early detection and treatment of sepsis, of which there are an estimated 150,000 cases in the UK each year and 44,000 deaths.[ii]

It calls for sepsis to be treated as “an immediate life-threatening condition” and with the same urgency as patients with chest pain. It also sets out a clear framework for risk assessment, treatment and follow-up for patients with sepsis.

The Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN) is already delivering a number of projects across the region focussing on better recognition and response to sepsis.

Tony Roberts, Patient Safety Collaborative Programme Lead for the AHSN, said: “The AHSN recognised the need to ensure the prompt diagnosis and treatment of sepsis when we launched our Patient Safety Collaborative Programme in 2014. We have funded and helped deliver projects which have been tackling the issue in a bid to better the care provided to patients in the region.

“A key element of the work has been bringing people together from a range of healthcare settings to develop clear pathways for prevention and management of sepsis. There has been an incredible amount of hard work, collaboration and progress made in this area and we will continue to facilitate discussions and improvements with our partners in line with the NICE guidelines.”

Working with the North East Quality Observatory Service (NEQOS) and Clarity Informatics, the AHSN funded the ‘Serious Infection’ project which monitors the prevalence and implementation of nationally recognised care bundles for sepsis and community acquired pneumonia.

The care bundle adherence analysis project formed part of larger scale regional work around sepsis aimed to reduce mortality, length of stay in hospital and re-admissions.

A recent evaluation into work to improve sepsis care in Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust indicates their focus on tackling the condition appears to have already had a positive impact. The evaluation estimated a 21% reduction in hospital mortality for sepsis and that 158 lives have been saved.

Northumbria’s work is informing the collaborative work across the hospitals throughout the North East and North Cumbria and clinicians from all the hospitals will meet next week to agree how best to implement the new NICE Guidance. Doctors from Northumbria will be sharing the lessons they have learnt about how best to improve care for patients with sepsis.

The AHSN also supported The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s ‘Deteriorating Child (RESILIENCE)’ project. The programme of work aimed to improve the safety of children who might be at risk of developing sepsis by creating a network of healthcare providers across primary, secondary and tertiary care.

The network brought together frontline staff from trusts throughout the region to share best practice and agree a joined up approach to the recognition and management of childhood illnesses including sepsis and asthma.

Project lead Dr Rachel Agbeko, Consultant Pediatric Intensivist at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, said: “We are working with GPs, hospitals and transport services across the region to help children get treatment for sepsis as quickly as possible. Most importantly, we are very grateful for the help parents are giving us in our efforts to get the best possible outcome for our children.”

Sepsis is a rare but serious reaction to an infection. If you get an infection, your body’s immune system responds by trying to fight it. Sepsis is when this immune system response becomes overactive and starts to cause damage to the body itself.

The symptoms are difficult to spot, patients often feel unwell but don’t have high temperatures. It’s vital that sepsis is treated urgently as the patient’s condition can quickly deteriorate and lead to septic shock, which can cause organ failure or be fatal.

To find out more about the AHSN’s Patient Safety Collaborative projects, visit: