NICE quality standards on sepsis are “unachievable” with current staff shortages, a senior acute medic has warned.
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said NICE’s quality standards for the condition contained advice which had not been agreed with specialist medical societies.
The guidance suggests people with suspected sepsis who receive treatment in emergency departments are seen by a consultant if their condition fails to respond within an hour of initial treatment.
However, Dr Scriven warned there was no evidence available regarding its effectiveness and currently no way it could be implemented due to the large number of unfilled consultant posts across the NHS.
NICE has taken steps to clarify its latest advice, suggesting a consultant didn’t have to be available within an hour but soon after concerns are escalated.
Sepsis kills an estimated 37,000 people a year in England. It is triggered by an infection and leads to an overreaction by the body’s immune system causing organ failure and death.
READ MORE ARTICLES:
Dr Scriven said: “Clearly anything that is designed to help the early recognition and treatment of this condition is a step in the right direction.
“However, in the current climate of unfilled consultant jobs in ‘front door’ specialties – up to 40% of consultant appointments unfilled in 2016 – and financial constraints, this is not a practical solution and is currently unachievable.
“It could lead to delays in transfer from emergency departments or have major implications on an already stretched and strained senior medical workforce.”
He questioned why the standard was not contained in the initial guidance shared with specialist societies for discussion and comment.
NICE deputy chief executive Gillian Leng said: “Our quality standard on sepsis draws on recommendations from the NICE guideline. It says that a consultant needs to be alerted if someone fails to respond to initial treatment. The guideline went out for public consultation and our quality standard reflects the recommendations it made.
“We recognise that some of these statements may be challenging, but our advice sets out what sepsis care should look like to help save lives that would otherwise be lost.”