Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced new measures to tackle sepsis which each year claims around 31,000 lives and costs the NHS in England about £2 billion.

The new measures, which involve the NHS, government and national health bodies, aim to make tackling sepsis as important to the NHS as Clostridium difficile and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), whose rates have virtually halved since 2010. It is estimated that 11,000 lives and £160 million could be saved every year through better diagnosis and treatment, say ministers.

The plans include an audit of current practice in every GP surgery in England by this March, to help improve practice in line with National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance. NICE is also set to issue, by July 2016, new clinical guidelines on the recognition, diagnosis and treatment of severe sepsis in adults.

A new electronic tool will be made available to GPs from autumn 2015 to prompt them to check for the signs and symptoms of sepsis, initially in children aged under five, among whom around 1,000 cases are reported per day. Roll-out of this new tool will eventually also extend to adults.

New diagnosis and incentivised treatment goals for hospitals will help raise standards, similar to a scheme aimed at reducing blood clots which has seen risk assessment increase from 47% in 2010 to 96% currently, and Public Health England will examine the benefits of a new public awareness campaign on the signs and symptoms of sepsis, aimed at those most at risk.

In addition, there will be support for local health services to improve early recognition and treatment of sepsis - in addition to work being done through the national Sign Up to Safety campaign - conducted in partnership with the UK Sepsis Trust.

Health Education England will ensure that healthcare workers and trainees receive training and education on sepsis, and there will be more open reporting of avoidable harm through the new Duty of Candour.

“I want the NHS to rival the safety record of the airline industry and become the safest healthcare system in the world,” said Mr Hunt. “Sepsis is a devastating condition that kills more than 80 people in England every day.”

The new measures have been welcomed by UK Sepsis Trust chief executive Ron Daniels, who said: “sepsis is the hidden killer which claims 31,000 lives in England every year - more than bowel cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Rapid access to healthcare, and reliable delivery of the most basic aspects of care, can save an extra 11,000 lives every year."