Nurses working in hospitals across the UK have a key role to play in ensuring more patients are being screened for suspected sepsis to lower the number of annual fatalities attributed to the infection.
Sepsis can be life-threatening if not detected early enough, and new figures collated by BBC Panorama show that while progress has been made in diagnosing the condition in recent years, there is still some way to go before all patients with the illness receive prompt and potentially life-saving treatment.
Data gathered from 104 NHS trusts throughout Britain shows that more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of patients believed to be at risk of sepsis are now screened upon arrival at hospital, but this means around one-fifth could be having their symptoms missed, putting their lives at threat.
The statistics also showed that 63 per cent of patients diagnosed with sepsis currently receive antibiotics within an hour, but again this means a significant number of individuals are missing out on this prompt treatment, which could be placing their health in greater danger.
What's more, it was found that 14 NHS Trusts are only screening one in two patients presenting possible signs of sepsis for the disease.
As a result of these findings, health secretary Jeremy Hunt is calling on doctors and nurses across the NHS to do more to ensure as many patients suspected to be suffering from sepsis as possible are screened promptly and are able to access the best medication and care for their needs in under an hour.
Speaking to BBC Panorama, Mr Hunt said: "There are preventable deaths happening, but we're bringing them down and I think that the picture is much improved from two years ago, but there's a long way to go.
"Safety is at the top of the NHS's in-tray ... and sepsis is, if you like, a litmus test as to whether we're getting there."
With greater awareness of the possible symptoms of sepsis among nursing staff in all healthcare departments, it is hoped that the 44,000 deaths - 14,000 of which are believed to be preventable - caused by the infection each year will be significantly reduced.
Written by James Puckle
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