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NICE: Nurses need to be better and faster at diagnosing sepsis

Tuesday 21st March 2017
New recommendations from NICE will see nurses required to play a key role in the early diagnosis of sepsis. Image: Dr_Microbe via iStock
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NHS nurses need to improve their knowledge of the potential signs of sepsis to ensure that patients suspected to have the life-threatening blood infection can receive treatment within an hour.

This new recommendation comes from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which wants to see outcomes improve significantly for people with sepsis. The onset of the condition can be very quick, so nurses need to be triaging patients thought to have the illness with the same urgency they would give to those suffering a heart attack.

Sepsis symptoms can include an abnormally high temperature, an irregular heart rate and signs of skin discolouration or a rash.

If patients are presenting any of these at A&E or at their GP surgery, NICE wants them to be rushed to hospital and examined by a senior medical professional straight away in order to give them the best possible chance of survival.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt stated: "Every death from sepsis is a tragedy, yet too often the warning signs are missed - we need to get far better at spotting sepsis across the NHS."

NICE recommends that if it will take more than an hour to get a patient to hospital, they should be treated with antibiotics and IV fluid by paramedics or their GP.

Therefore, nurses could have a life-saving role to play in spotting the potential signs of sepsis quickly and referring patients for further examination or treatment.

Although not always fatal, some sepsis patients end up requiring a limb amputation and the illness can also increase their risk of heart failure, so early diagnosis is essential.

Currently, however, statistics show that 40 per cent of suspected sepsis cases are not reviewed within an hour.

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, commented: "An emphasis on timely treatment and diagnosis is crucial if we are to improve outcomes for people with sepsis and this quality standard could be a hugely impactful reinforcement of the recent guideline recommendation that sepsis is treated with the same urgency as heart attacks."

Written by James Puckle

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