Bacterial meningitis has significant mortality but frontline doctors will see it infrequently. Therefore, UK guidance on meningitis in adults, with auditable standards, was revised in 2016. We undertook a national audit to assess adherence to the guidelines.


Patients with community acquired meningitis were identified through coding or laboratory data. Audit standards, including immediate management, diagnostics and treatment, were evaluated by notes review.


Notes from 1472 patients with meningitis were reviewed – 309/1472 (21%) had bacterial aetiology, 615/1472 (42%) viral, 548/1472 (37%) unidentified aetiology. Only 50% of patients had blood cultures taken within one hour of admission and just 2% had a lumbar puncture (LP) within the first hour. 27% received antibiotics within one hour. Most patients received ceftriaxone or cefotaxime but only 37% of over-60s received empirical anti-listeria antibiotics. 26% of patients who had antibiotics were given adjunctive steroids. Half had CSF microscopy within two hours of LP. Less than a third had pneumococcal and/or meningococcal PCR on cerebrospinal fluid. Only 44% had an HIV test. 62% had unnecessary neuroimaging before LP. Overall mortality was 3% - 16% in pneumococcal disease and 8% in meningococcal meningitis. There was a trend toward improved survival in patients with pneumococcal meningitis who received dexamethasone [85/96 (88%)] compared to those who did not [57/73 (78%)] (p=0.066).


Adherence to the meningitis guidelines is inadequate, potentially compromising patient safety. Improvements in guideline dissemination, novel educational resources and clinician and patient engagement are required if we are to increase guideline adherence and improve outcome.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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