NHS trusts to tackle sepsis using RCP National Early Warning Score

The NHS announced plans to roll out the RCP's National Early Warning Score (NEWS2) to acute and ambulance trusts in order to identify patients at risk of clinical deterioration due to sepsis.

Under guidance that is being mandated by NHS England from 1 April, every trust must take action to spot and treat sepsis – the killer blood condition that costs 37,000 lives a year. Drawn up with the RCP, the Royal College of General Practitioners, NICE and the UK Sepsis Trust (UKST), the guidance states that staff should look for sepsis at an early stage in patients coming to A&E departments and those who are already on wards.

Professor Bryan Williams, chair of the NEWS Development Group and RCP clinical lead for NEWS, said:

It is vital that patients with suspected sepsis are seen as quickly as possible, and this new initiative from NHS England is very important in ensuring we get the best opportunity to act quickly and save lives of people with suspected sepsis.

We welcome plans to roll NEWS2 out to acute and ambulance trusts to help identify sepsis at the earliest possible stage and save lives.

Professor Bryan Williams, chair of the NEWS Development Group and RCP clinical lead for NEWS

NEWS2 is a simple but incredibly useful tool to help identify patients at risk of clinical deterioration due to sepsis and is helping transform the speed and effectiveness of treatment for these patients across the NHS. We welcome plans to roll NEWS2 out to acute and ambulance trusts to help identify sepsis at the earliest possible stage and save lives.

Celia Ingham Clark, medical director for clinical effectiveness at NHS England, added:

We’ve come a long way in the NHS in improving how we identify and tackle sepsis, with more people having the problem spotted and treated than ever before.

The NHS Long Term Plan is a blueprint for transforming NHS care, and after the success we’ve had ramping up earlier sepsis diagnosis in many parts of the country, all hospitals will now be required to deliver the best possible practices for identifying and treating sepsis

The NHS Long Term Plan is a blueprint for transforming NHS care ... all hospitals will now be required to deliver the best possible practices for identifying and treating sepsis.

Celia Ingham Clark, medical director for clinical effectiveness at NHS England

Dr Tim Nutbeam, clinical advisor for the UK Sepsis Trust, said:

The UKST welcomes this initiative; if delivered correctly it will ensure rapid and effective treatment for the patients who need it most, whilst ensuring that senior clinical decision makers are supported in making informed, balanced decisions in relation to the prescribing of antibiotics.

We have been working with NHS England for the past 3 years to improve the recognition and management of sepsis in hospitals. This next step will ensure that every patient receives the attention they require within existing resource.

NHS guidance

The guidance states that consultants must be informed if patients with suspected sepsis do not respond to treatment within 1 hour. Hospital teams should also take sufficient note of non-specific symptoms and concerns expressed by relatives and carers such as acute changes in behaviour, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to save thousands more lives.

Screening for sepsis in those patients already in hospital for other reasons, and whose condition gets unexpectedly worse, has risen from 69% to 86% since 2016, and prompt antibiotic treatment has improved from 69% to 83%.

At the request of the prime minister, the NHS has been undertaking a clinically-led review of how current measures – including the 4-hour A&E standard, introduced 15 years ago – could be improved to support NHS staff in delivering the best quality care possible, particularly for those patients with the most critical health needs.