Crucial role for nurses in helping reduce sepsis deaths
Patients still dying due to not receiving right care at right time, but regular in-depth training of nurses could help ensure warning signs are spotted
Nurses have a critical role in helping to reduce avoidable deaths from sepsis, including supporting families to raise concerns about patient care, say healthcare experts.
But more regular, in-depth training may be needed to ensure warning signs are spotted and cases treated swiftly.
A report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) shows NHS patients continue to die from sepsis ‘because they did not receive the right care at the right time’.
It’s clear that lessons are not being learned, says Ombudsman
The report, which features examples of avoidable deaths, flags up many of the same issues that were highlighted by the ombudsman in a report published ten years ago, including delays in diagnosis and treatment, poor communication and record-keeping and missed opportunities for follow-up care.
PHSO Rob Behrens said it was clear that lessons were not being learned. He called for urgent action to ensure the NHS was ‘sepsis-aware’ and listened to patients and families when they raised concerns or made complaints.
About 48,000 people die from sepsis in the UK every year, according to the UK Sepsis Trust.
UK Sepsis Trust chief executive Ron Daniels, an NHS intensive care consultant, said the findings were ‘incredibly disheartening’ but said nurses were key to improving sepsis care.
Martha’s Rule would enable families to seek an urgent second medical opinion
The government is considering introducing ‘Martha’s Rule’, named in memory of 13-year-old Martha Mills, who died from sepsis in hospital after a failure to admit her to intensive care.
This would give families the power to seek an urgent second medical opinion if a patient’s condition is deteriorating or they have concerns about their care.
Nurses’ critical role in identifying and initiating treatment of patients with suspected sepsis
Dr Daniels hopes it would also empower nurses to raise concerns and challenge colleagues.
‘As the health professionals closest to our patients, nurses have a critical role in identifying and initiating treatment of patients with suspected sepsis, particularly in the setting of the deteriorating patient,’ he said.
‘All too often nurses have to act as advocates for their patients when other health professionals are not available or don’t seem to be taking the situation seriously.
‘Initiatives such as Martha’s Rule will empower not only families but also the nurses caring for their loved ones to speak up and ask for a second opinion.’
Report highlights need for more in-depth knowledge of physiology and pathophysiology
Cardiff University senior lecturer in adult nursing Andrew Parry said sepsis was not straightforward to diagnose and called for more in-depth training for nurses and other clinicians.
‘All the evidence suggests early identification improves outcomes for patients and this report highlights the need for more in-depth knowledge of physiology and pathophysiology, which enables the interpretation of assessments that can help identify sepsis,’ he told Nursing Standard.
‘We must approach patient assessment in a systematic manner combined with a solid knowledge base. Regular education exploring caring for the deteriorating patient could be beneficial in reducing avoidable sepsis deaths.’
RCNi Sepsis learning module
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