Thousands of sepsis patients wait too long for treatment

By Laura Donnelly, Health Editor

PATIENTS’ lives are being put at risk with one in four people with suspected sepsis forced to wait too long for treatment, an investigation has found.

Hospitals are meant to put patients on an antibiotic drip within an hour when sepsis is suspected, but figures from 100 NHS trusts in England suggest thousands of cases are waiting longer.

Dr Ron Daniels, of the UK Sepsis Trust, said the figures showed patients were being put at risk and said the one-hour window was “essential to increase the chances of surviving”.

The research, by the BBC, comes three years after hospitals in England were instructed to record their identification and treatment of sepsis.

Between January and March, the records show that about 75 per cent of patients received treatment within an hour, as is recommended. However, at some hospitals more than half of patients waited longer.

At Salford Royal NHS trust just 36 per cent of cases were seen in an hour, with just 42 per cent seen within this time frame at Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals, and 50 per cent achieving the target at Bradford Teaching Hospitals trust.

Performance on wards and in Accident & Emergency departments was similar, but A&E departments have shown some improvements since 2017, when about 60 per cent of patients began antibiotics within an hour.

Sepsis is a deadly overreaction of the immune system, in response to infections, which can start from even the most minor injury such as a contaminated cut.

NHS England said hospitals were getting better at identifying cases sooner.

Celia Ingham Clark, from NHS England, added that medics needed to ensure drugs went to the right patients, following clear screening protocols.

She said: “It’s important not to automatically give antibiotics to everyone, instead we want to identify the sickest patients and get them assessed and then quickly give them antibiotics.”

Grahame White