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GPs urged to use screening tools to diagnose sepsis



GPs are being urged to use screening tools to diagnose sepsis, as the NHS aims to reduce the number of deaths from the condition.

NHS chiefs said these tools form part of a new ‘action plan’ on sepsis, which is currently killing an estimated 37,000 patients each year.

The action plan said GPs are limited by their ‘lack of laboratory services’ in their ’ability to distinguish between sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock’, but that there ‘are screening tools available to support GPs identify sepsis’.

It raised one such tool, the GP Sepsis Screening and Action Tool Protocol, available to the 30% of practices using SystmOne, which uses patient record information ‘to assess whether a patient has suspected sepsis’.

However leading GPs criticised plans, saying these thools were not suitable as an aid for GPs to reach a diagnosis.

Dr John Cosgrove, RCGP council member and a GP in Birmingham, said the SystmOne tool ‘pops up every time you type in fever, but it’s really not appropriate to measure and record in full every time you see someone with a history of a feverish illness’.

He said: ’GPs have concerns about the way these tools have been implemented. The tools are not suitable for screening or diagnostic purposes but simply to aid communication and audit as to how unwell a patient is.’

He also claimed the UK Sepsis Trust, which helped develop the SystmOne tool, shared GPs’ concerns about how the they were implemented.

Trust chief executive Dr Ron Daniels said: ‘The UK Sepsis Trust welcomes this action plan as a part of the ongoing strategy to reduce avoidable harm from sepsis.

‘We are conscious, however, that tools and processes designed for hospital use may not be directly translatable to primary care, and will continue to work with GP colleagues and stakeholders including RCGP to continually test and improve tools and recommendations.’

Other recommendations in the action plan include a new sepsis education module to be developed by Health Education England; raising public awareness; CQC inspecting hospital implementation of NICE guidance; a new NICE clinical guideline in 2016 and quality standard in 2017; improved coding on sepsis by HSCIC; and looking at refreshing guidelines on antibiotics in treating severe sepsis ‘to ensure antibiotics remain effective’.

NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said: ’In many cases sepsis is avoidable, and if not, it is often treatable, so we need to ensure that healthcare professionals are supported and equipped to identify and treat sepsis early.

’We have a good idea of what needs to be done and this plan aims to make things happen.’