Sepsis is a life-threatening response to an infection in the body.The NHS has saved hundreds of people from sepsis thanks to better use of digital technology in hospitals. In a major nationwide push to tackle the condition, including a one hour identification and treatment ambition, new ‘alert and action’ technology is being introduced which uses algorithms to read patients’ vital signs and alert medics to worsening conditions that are a warning sign of sepsis.

Sepsis – also known as blood poisoning – is a life-threatening response to an infection in the body, where the immune system damages tissues and organs. Three leading hospitals are using alerts to help identify sepsis and tell doctors when patients with the serious condition are getting worse, ahead of the measures being rolled out across England as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. NHS leaders in Cambridge, Liverpool and Berkshire are now helping the rest of the health service to adopt tools to spot it, which costs 37,000 lives a year and is notoriously difficult to identify.

In Liverpool, the hospital’s digital system brings together lab results and patient observations into one place to help staff diagnose and treat suspected sepsis, saving up to 200 lives a year.

In Cambridge, deaths from sepsis have fallen consistently over the last three years, with at least 64 lives saved in the past year thanks to the innovative alert and action feature.

In Berkshire since introducing a digital system, the Trust has increased screening rates by 70% with nine in 10 patients now consistently screened for sepsis during admission as opposed to two in ten beforehand, allowing doctors to spot more cases sooner.

The schemes are part of a national effort to push best practice and new technology across the NHS, to help hospitals learn from the success of others and spread use of the best technology further, faster. This year the NHS also made it mandatory for all hospitals in England 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. Celia Ingham Clark, medical director for clinical effectiveness at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “Sepsis is an extremely serious condition, but as part of the NHS Long Term Plan we have made huge improvements in spotting and treating it quickly, with more than nine in 10 people getting the checks they need.v“Now, with the help of innovative digital tools, the NHS is saving more lives by getting even better at identifying and treating sepsis. “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.”

Screening rates for sepsis in emergency departments have risen from 78% in 2015 to 91% in 2018. ‘Digital blueprints’, outlining the best in technology within the NHS, have been created by hospitals on NHSX’s Global Digital Exemplar programme, which has allocated funding to 51 acute, mental health and ambulance trusts to help them adopt digital systems.  Dr Simon Eccles, chief clinical information officer at NHSX, said: “As an emergency medicine consultant, I know first-hand how helpful these technologies can be on a busy shift, to alert you to a deteriorating patient who might have sepsis and offering the best possible chance of saving their life. “As we continue to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan, many parts of the country are using world class technology to save more lives and this programme is helping to ensure that learning is spread right across the NHS so others can benefit from their success.”

Hospitals across the NHS are now learning from over 60 pilots, trials and blueprints based on lessons from where new technology has been used successfully across the country.


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