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NHS England claims success of digital sepsis alerts

20/08/19

Parliamentary Correspondent

NHS England has claimed early success in the use of digital alerts to warn doctors about cases of sepsis.

Sepsis blood cells

This comes after trials of the ‘action and alert’ technology in three hospital trusts – Liverpool and Broadgreen University, Cambridge University and Royal Berkshire – have helped to save hundreds of lives.

The technology uses sensors to provide information such as breathing rate and pulse rate, which is constantly analysed by software and an electronic message sent to doctors if it indicates the onset of sepsis.

NHS England said that in Liverpool the hospital's digital system allows joint monitoring of laboratory results and patient observations to help staff make a diagnosis, saving an estimated 200 lives.

A similar system in Cambridge is believed to have saved at least 64 lives in the past year, while, in Berkshire, screening on admission has increased from 20% to 90%, making it possible to spot sepsis cases more quickly.

Major impact

Dr Paul Fitzsimmons, from Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals, said: “We have seen a major impact on sepsis care with lives saved. In some cases, it would have been impossible to make a diagnosis of sepsis without the help of our digital system.”

Dr Afzal Chaudhry, from Cambridge University Hospitals, described the innovation as “an excellent example of how much of a difference digital technology can make to patient safety, care and outcomes”.

Funding has been allocated to 51 acute, mental health and ambulance trusts to help them adopt similar digital systems, through the Global Digital Exemplar programme.

“With the help of innovative digital tools, the NHS is saving more lives by getting even better at identifying and treating sepsis,” said Celia Ingham Clark, medical director for clinical effectiveness at NHS England.

“The systems at Liverpool, Cambridge and Berkshire are life-saving and as more hospitals adopt digital tools, thousands more families will be spared the harm and heartbreak of sepsis.”

Avoidable deaths

Sepsis is the leading cause of avoidable death in the UK, affecting an estimated 260,000 people a year and killing at least 44,000. It occurs when the body over-reacts to an everyday infection or virus – such as a skin infection, chest infection, pneumonia or flu.

Every 30-minute delay in treating a patient with sepsis increases the risk of death by 7%, but it is often mistaken for milder conditions.

Earlier this year it became mandatory for hospitals to implement national sepsis guidance, including that hospital staff must alert senior doctors if patients with suspected sepsis do not respond to treatment within an hour.

Image by Bruce Detorres, public domain

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