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NHS says new sepsis alert technology is saving lives

Algorithms read patients vital signs and alert clinicians to signs of infection

Mark Gould

Monday, 19 August 2019

A pilot scheme which uses algorithms to read patients vital signs and alert clinicians to warning signs of sepsis has already saved hundreds of people from infection, according to NHS England.

In a major nationwide push to tackle the condition, including a one-hour identification and treatment ambition, new "alert and action" technology has been introduced at three leading hospitals. If the pilots are a success the technology will be introduced across England as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.


Hospitals in Cambridge, Liverpool and Berkshire are now helping the rest of the health service to adopt tools to spot sepsis 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.

Dr Simon Eccles, chief clinical information officer at NHSX, a new unit driving forward digital care in the NHS, 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.”

Dr Ron Daniels BEM, 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 UK Sepsis Trust welcome these initiatives, especially at such a time when the national spotlight is on the swift diagnosis and treatment of sepsis.

“These innovations involve technology that uses existing recognition strategies for sepsis. In the coming years, however, we expect that our improved understanding of the condition, combined with the embracing of evermore advancing technology, will ensure that we deliver the very best care to the patients who need it most urgently.”

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