Following trials at three hospitals in England, plans to roll out a new digital sepsis alert system are underway as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. Sepsis, which is also known as blood poisoning, occurs when the body’s response to an infection causes it to attack its own tissues and organs. It is estimated that there are 250,000 cases of sepsis in England every year, with at least 40,000 deaths.
The results of the trial demonstrated that the system successfully helped doctors spot the deadly condition and respond quickly when it worsened. The tech was first introduced last year into NHS computer systems, but only now is the data showing the impact.
According to NHS England, in Cambridge, at least 64 lives have been saved and in Liverpool up to 200 lives. In Berkshire, on average, there has been a 70% rise in the completion of sepsis screening tools across the trust.
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Dr Ron Daniels, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust, said: “Any kind of technology which assists clinicians in making prompt decisions when the warning signs of sepsis are detected should be embraced; with every hour that passes before the right antibiotics are administered the risk of death increases.”
The tech works by measuring a patient’s vital signs and alerts clinicians if it detects sepsis or signs of deterioration. It will also suggest the next steps to prevent the patient from deteriorating further, removing the need for doctors to consult separate paper charts.
Claire Burnett, clinical nurse specialist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, helped to develop the technology, told Sky News: “Previously we were using a paper screening tool, using the same algorithm but on paper. So because we were already recording our observations, we were already recording our heart rate, blood pressures, temperatures all on a computer we were having to duplicate work.
“That’s why these digital systems are really coming into their own because we’re using information that’s already there to produce alerts very, very quickly – almost in real-time. Fast identification of sepsis and treatment provides much better outcomes for our patients. so we know if we identify sepsis quickly and we treat it really quickly our patients will have much better outcomes,” she added.
Dr Simon Eccles, chief clinical information officer at NHSX, the body which works to integrate new digital technology into the NHS, said: “The challenge for us is how to spot it early enough to really make a difference with treatment, and that’s where this technology, these algorithms come in. To spot subtle deterioration that clinicians might have otherwise found in a busy environment they just wouldn’t find as early as they could. The algorithm draws it to their attention, it says, you need to consider sepsis – start treatment now.”