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Congress demands mandatory sepsis training

RCN members back call for mandatory training on sepsis after hearing harrowing account from a survivor of the condition

RCN members back call for mandatory training on sepsis after hearing harrowing account from a survivor of the condition


Sepsis survivor Tom Ray at RCN congress. Picture: John Houlihan

If you suspect sepsis you must act. That was the message from sepsis survivor Tom Ray to nurses at RCN congress.

In a powerful keynote speech Mr Ray, who had quadruple amputation as a result of delayed diagnosis and treatment, told congress in Liverpool: ‘Your sepsis patients that are coming through A&E are on fire. That’s how quickly they need to be dealt with.’

Mr Ray, who spent five months in a coma after developing sepsis in 1999, used his speech to call for mandatory sepsis training across the nursing and midwifery professions.

He also told of the compassion of one nurse while he spent a further five months in a hospital room recovering.

‘There was a beautiful world out there’


Tom Ray: ‘Your sepsis patients are
on fire. Picture: John Houlihan

‘There was one nurse who would come and sit and hold my hand, or at least what was left of my arm,’ he said.

‘After about three months, I’d been in that room with no visitors apart from my wife Nic. The nurse got me in her car and drove me to a place called Grantchester, near Cambridge. She showed me there was a beautiful world out there to come back to.

‘That wasn’t on a nurse’s tick list, or any kind of recommended course, but she did it and went the extra mile.’

Challenges for family

Mr Ray’s wife spoke of the challenges she faced as a carer and the mother of two young children.

She said: ‘The best person was the community nurse, who every time Tom had a surgery, which was frequently, he came home with a dressing.

‘The community nurse would come and she would go “How is mum? How are the kids? Let me organise your drugs”.’

Sepsis kills five people every hour in the UK and affects the lives of 25,000 children a year, according to the Sepsis Trust charity.

Gaps in knowledge

After a debate, members voted for a resolution asking RCN council to lobby UK healthcare regulators for mandatory staff training on the recognition, treatment and care of patients with sepsis.

Gillian Priday, of the children and young people’s specialist care forum, said tackling sepsis was seen as a priority but there remained significant gaps in health professionals’ knowledge on the issue.

Nurses also used congress as a platform to call for the nationwide implementation of a system to identify deterioration in children being treated in hospitals and other settings.

A universal paediatric early warning sign score (PEWS) system in England would mirror the national early warning score for adults, introduced last year.

PEWS progress too slow

Elements of the scoring tool, which monitors children’s vital signs, have been tested in specialist settings including Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith said progress on a national PEWS system has been too slow.

She said: ‘Nurses have been calling for a national standardised PEWS system for children for more than ten years now.’


A congress session on Wednesday. Picture: John Houlihan


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