The incidence of sepsis continues to increase. However, over the past decade marked reductions in sepsis-related in-hospital mortality have been reported. Large variations in the presentation and severity of illness may be encountered in ICU patients with severe sepsis, which might preclude the success of screening and guideline programmes. However, the authors of this article were able to prove that a national programme involving screening and a package of interventions did lower relative in-hospital mortality by 16.7% over 3.5 years in 52 participating hospitals in the Netherlands. In-hospital mortality did not change in 30 non-participating hospitals. Therefore, the authors recommend implementing updated guidelines, sepsis quality indicators and programmes with a package of interventions to further reduce sepsis mortality. Furthermore, additional research on long term consequences in sepsis survivors is warranted.