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Southeastern Trust and Belfast Trust Sepsis Learning Event asks ‘Could it Sepsis?’

6 February 2020

Southeastern Trust and Belfast Trust Sepsis Learning Event asks ‘Could it Sepsis?’ 

Sepsis is a term which describes the most severe form of infection and is potentially fully treatable in a number of cases. Major regional improvement work is now underway to identify sepsis earlier and more consistently and to administer appropriate antibiotics swiftly. Healthcare staff in acute hospitals, across the region are working with the Health and Social Care Quality Improvement Hub in Northern Ireland to test this approach in the adult non-neutropenic and non-maternity setting. This regional improvement project will be spread across the NI acute sector once the prototype has been fully tested.

Whilst many people may have heard about sepsis, fewer know what is really is or what the symptoms are. Sepis is organ malfunction due to infection which may be life threatening and can develop very quickly. In an adult sepsis it may feel like you have flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection at first. Early symptoms include fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and quick breathing. Symptoms of sepsis or septic shock can include feeling dizzy or faint, confusion or disorientation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin,

Dr Mark Vignesha Roberts, Clinical Director, Improvement Hub for HSCQI who is working with teams on the sepsis regional improvement work commented:

‘We are working to help our clinicians use their clinical skills, alongside the patient’s symptoms and signs and history to make a faster diagnosis of sepsis and give the antibiotics quicker once the diagnosis is made. The message we need our healthcare staff to think about is ‘Could it be sepsis?’

Giving patients with evidence of sepsis antibiotics quickly is one of the measures that we know improves the outcome for the patient, but this is only the case if antibiotics are protected from overuse, otherwise they lose their effectiveness.  Hence inappropriately using antibiotics for single viral or other self-limiting infections create challenges and patients and families need to help clinical staff in their quest to use antibiotics responsibly and not overuse them.  Media campaigns such as the recent ‘Antibiotic Guardian’ campaign have been reminding us all that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats facing us today.”

Seamus McGoran, Interim Chief Executive of South Eastern Trust, opened the event by thanking staff for the work they are engaged in:

“The work your teams are doing could not be more important. It is my hope that this collaborative event will develop a regional approach which will improve outcomes for sepsis.”

Speaking at the Sepsis Learning Event, Cathy Curran, Patient Safety and Improvement Lead, highlighted and congratulated frontline staff on the excellent work already going on to recognise Sepsis; “Healthcare staff have been working really hard under extreme pressures and high demand, and are recognising and preventing Sepsis, but we need to be able to measure and demonstrate that in a meaningful way.”

Staff from the sepsis test sites spoke about the ongoing work, the learning and the progress being made.  Presenting their work from South Eastern Trust were Dr Conor O’Toole, Consultant Emergency Medicine Ulster Hospital, Dr Melissa King, Specialty Doctor Emergency Medicine Lagan Valley Hospital, Cathy Curran, Patient Safety and Improvement, Safe and Effective Care, sharing the challenges teams have faced and how they have overcome them to move towards effective scale and spread.

From Belfast Trust, Dr Emma Greenwood Royal Victoria Hospital, Emergency Medicine, Dr Emma Murray, Belfast City Hospital, Intestinal failure Unit, Dr Matthew McGuckin, Mater Infirmorum Hospital, Emergency Medicine, presented their ongoing work and how it was progressing in BHSCT.


A number of learning events for clinical staff are being held at several hospitals across NI over the next few weeks. More information on the sepsis regional improvement work can be found on  

Click on where you can hear Dr Mark Roberts and Donna Gallagher, a nurse and family member of a surviving sepsis patient, discuss the importance of this regional work.