“There’s no doubt we are doing much better,” says Helen Winn, RCHT’s lead nurse for sepsis. “Our improved performance reflects the growing awareness not only among staff but among the public, too, where are now seeing them increasingly consider ‘could it be sepsis’. I am really proud of what’s been achieved. In exceptionally busy times, it shows our clinical teams are doing things right, being aware and making it happen.”
Sepsis is one of a number of medical conditions where the ‘golden hour’ from diagnosis to starting treatment has a vital impact on the chances of survival. Sepsis is the body’s reaction to an underlying condition, such as a virus or infection, prompting the immune system to attack the major organs. It’s most common among the elderly, the young and those living with long term illnesses.
Based on random audit of patient records, RCHT has seen an increase in Emergency Department assessment for sepsis from 52% to 89% since April 2015 and treatment commencing within the hour increased from 49% to 76% in the same period. In-patient assessment for sepsis increased from 62% to 70% since April 2016 and treatment commencing within the hour has increased from 58% to 80% for these patients.
Over recent months Helen has been working closely with campaigner Melissa Mead, whose son William tragically died from sepsis, running awareness sessions for RCHT staff as well as going out to other care settings and public locations, such as supermarkets. Sepsis has also become a key topic on induction sessions for new staff and Helen is also involved with teaching specific groups of healthcare professionals within the Trust. Helen says, “We are far from complacent. There is still room for further improvement and we have a number of things in the pipeline.”
One of the next steps is the introduction of a sepsis screening module within the mobile devices now used across the trust to record vital observations and to prompt action when results show signs a patient’s condition may be deteriorating. At the same time as the introduction of the screening tool, the Trust will be changing to NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines for the recognition and treatment of sepsis.
RCHT has also been working with nursing homes and carers to help staff to more easily spot the early signs of sepsis linked to illness such as urinary tract infections.
NHS England Medical Director for Clinical Effectiveness, Celia Ingham Clark said:
“I would like to congratulate you for all the hard work and dedication you have shown, which has enabled these improvements in sepsis recognition and treatment to take place.”
The Trust has also been invited to share its work so that other NHS trusts and organisations can learn from the approach that has been taken at RCHT.
“We’re looking forward to further awareness sessions for staff and the public next month, when Melissa Mead will be joining us again at the Royal Cornwall Hospital on 20th March – look out for us in the main entrance foyer!”