Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused an abnormal immune response to an infection which claims 52,000 lives a year in the UK. Sepsis develops when the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead.
Sepsis can be difficult to spot because symptoms can also indicate less serious conditions, but early treatment is vital.
NHS hospitals will be contractually obliged to ensure they fully comply with the guidance coming in from April.
The guidance requires staff to look at an early stage for signs of sepsis in people coming into the emergency department and to flag cases when patients suspected as having the condition are not responding to treatment.
Healthcare staff must alert senior doctors if patients with suspected sepsis do not respond to treatment within one hour under guidance that hospitals must now follow.
Nurses and doctors must take notice of family concerns, particularly if they report significant change in behaviour.
This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which sets out priorities for the health service in England over the next decade.
The new focus on fast treatment for sepsis in emergency departments – along with other major killers such as heart attack, stroke and severe asthma attacks – is part of a raft of improvements to NHS waiting time standards which will be trialled over the coming months.