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Chasing the Golden Hour – Lessons learned from improving initial neutropenic sepsis management.
  1. Caroline Forde,
  2. Paula Scullin
  1. Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland, UK
  1. Correspondence to Caroline Forde caroline.forde{at}


Neutropenic sepsis remains a time critical and potentially fatal complication of systemic anti-cancer therapy. A target ‘door to needle’ time of one hour for first dose empirical intravenous antibiotics continues to be promoted nationally. A baseline audit (June 2011) highlighted shortfalls in care in the Belfast Trust, with only 15% of patients receiving antibiotics within sixty minutes. A multi-professional group within the Trust was established to try and initiate the improvements in neutropenic sepsis recognition and initial management that were urgently required. A number of strategies have been developed over the last five years. Firstly an integrated care pathway was introduced, which is currently used by nursing and medical staff for patients presenting with suspected neutropenic sepsis, through acute cancer centre assessment areas and emergency departments, as well as inpatients developing neutropenic sepsis. An initial reaudit June 2012 demonstrated improvement (62% meeting 1hour target), but a subsequent audit, January 2013, was disappointing (only 50% meeting 1hour target). In response, a new compact, user-friendly care pathway was introduced. A range of other measures have also been subsequently introduced. Patients' care is continually monitored through simple ward based documentation, completed after initial treatment of each neutropenic sepsis episode. A patient group direction facilitates nurse led prescribing and administration of first dose antibiotics. Regular multidisciplinary education sessions and improved access to regional guidelines have also been prioritised. From November 2013, consistently greater than 80% of patients have met the one hour target. Recent data continues to be encouraging; in July 2016 100% of patients received first doses within sixty minutes, in October 95% of patients. Significant sustained improvements in meeting the sixty minute target have been demonstrated. The combination of measures ensures neutropenic sepsis is considered and basic clinical care delivered quickly and safely, through a co-ordinated standardised approach, to avoid complications.

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