Thousands of nurses, care home staff and pharmacists are to be urged to look out for symptoms of sepsis in the latest drive to combat the deadly condition, Jeremy Hunt has announced.

The Health Secretary said staff will work to a clear definition of what adult sepsis looks like so that it is identified and treated more quickly.

As part of a plan to step up action against the deadly infection staff will be given more educational materials.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight an infection.

Signs of sepsis in children include lethargy, feeling cold to the touch, fast or difficult breathing and a rash that does not fade.

In adults the signs include fast heart rate, fast breathing, fever or chills, vomiting, slurred speech and breathlessness.

Sepsis kills around 37,000 people in England every year.

Mr Hunt said: "We want the NHS to be the safest healthcare system in the world, and our ability to diagnose and treat sepsis effectively is a key litmus test of progress.

"While the NHS has taken major steps in recent years to improve how it responds to sepsis - actions that have saved nearly a thousand lives - there is still more work to do to protect the many thousands who develop this dangerous condition each year.

NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said: "Sepsis is the body's natural response to overwhelming infection.

"It is treacherous because it can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages and difficult to treat if not diagnosed early."

Early symptoms of sepsis usually develop quickly and can include:

  • high temperature (fever)

  • chills and shivering

  • a fast heartbeat

  • fast breathing

  • Symptoms of more severe sepsis can include:

  • feeling dizzy or faint

  • confusion or disorientation

  • nausea and vomiting

  • diarrhoea

  • not passing water for prolonged periods

  • cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin

Read more: What is Sepsis?