05 April 2017

What’s your emergency? Dr John Butler, consultant in emergency and critical care, Central Manchester University Hospital

Dr Butler tells us why sepsis needs to be treated as an emergency and how new NICE guidance can help to achieve this.

Dr John Butler, consultant in emergency and critical care medicine, Central Manchester University Hospital

Every 14 minutes someone dies from sepsis in the UK.

Sepsis occurs when the body is overcome by an infection. I have treated a significant number of people suffering from it. I have seen their body turn against them and their immune system go into overdrive. Eventually, unable to cope, their organs shutdown.

Per year, sepsis kills three times more people than breast cancer.

In most cases, if sepsis is identified and treated quickly, people will recover. Antibiotics are the single most important life-saving measure and should be given as early as possible.

But sepsis is sometimes difficult to diagnose. The symptoms can be vague and easily missed. And several reports have suggested that opportunities for early intervention are often missed. Leading to delays in treatment, which could ultimately cost someone their life.

We must consider sepsis an emergency, much like a heart attack or stroke.

This is why I got involved in developing NICE’s guidance. I wanted to increase my understanding of how to spot sepsis quickly, and then help my colleagues to do the same.

The new NICE quality standard on sepsis urges hospital staff to treat people with life-threatening sepsis within one hour. And it equips healthcare professionals with the best information about how to achieve this.

By following NICE’s recommendations we can reduce the number of cases where a sepsis diagnosis is missed or overlooked. Together we can improve the care we give. This will save lives. 

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