Experts from NICE have suggested that GPs should treat those suffering from sepsis in a similar fashion to patients dealing with chest pains.
The new NICE guidelines outline systematic processes which will be put in place across the GP network in the United Kingdom immediately.
It is hoped that the new approach to treating sepsis will prevent 44,000 deaths annually.
This new approach represents the first evidence-based guideline of this nature, with signs and symptoms presented in tables in order to assist GPs with the diagnosis process.
In face-to-face assessments in people with suspected sepsis GPs are advised to “assess temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, level of consciousness and oxygen saturation”, and that people with sepsis may be suffering from “non-specific, non-localised presentation, for example feeling very unwell, and may not have a high temperature”.
A spokesperson for NICE asserted that numerous changes have been made to the new strategy after the draft guidelines had been published.
“The main feedback we got at consultation was that we needed to ensure there was a good balance between ensuring that cases of sepsis are identified promptly without over diagnosing and burdening the service with people who don’t have sepsis.”
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker indicated her belief that the new approach to treating sepsis could help improve survival rates for what is a hugely debilitating and deadly condition.
“The diagnosis of sepsis is a huge worry for GPs as initial symptoms can be similar to common viral illnesses so we welcome any guidance or support to help us identify it as early as possible. Sepsis is one of the college’s spotlight projects until April 2017, and as part of this programme we will be working with NHS England and Health Education England to help improve the outcomes from sepsis, particularly in collaboration with colleagues across the NHS to reduce deaths from sepsis each year across the UK.”
Professor Saul Faust of the University of Southampton, and chair of the group that developed the NICE guideline, welcomed to the new strategy, and indicated that it should be extremely helpful for GPs dealing with the condition.
“Sepsis can be difficult to diagnose with certainty. We want clinicians to start asking “could this be sepsis?” much earlier on so they can rule it out or get people the treatment they need. The thinking should be similar to considering that chest pain could be heart related. Just like most people with chest pain are not having a heart attack, the majority of people with an infection will not have sepsis. But if it isn’t considered then the diagnosis can be missed.”
A recent global assessment of the mortality rate of patients with sepsis treated in an intensive care unit found that over one third of these patients died without leaving hospital.
Sepsis remains the primary cause of death from infection despite advances in modern medicine, such as vaccines, antibiotics and acute care.
In the developing world sepsis accounts for 60-80% of lost lives per year, affecting more than 6 million newborns and children annually and over 100,000 women contract sepsis in the course of pregnancy and childbirth.
Even in the UK, sepsis is responsible for nearly 45,000 deaths every year.