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The response to patient deterioration in the UK National Health Service - A survey of acute hospital policies.

Freathy, S., Smith, G. B., Schoonhoven, L. and Westwood, G., 2019. The response to patient deterioration in the UK National Health Service - A survey of acute hospital policies. Resuscitation, 139 (June), 152-158.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2019.04.016


BACKGROUND: The assessment of acute-illness severity in adult non-pregnant patients in the United Kingdom is based on early warning score (EWS) values that determine the urgency and nature of the response to patient deterioration. This study aimed to describe, and identify variations in, the expected clinical response outlined in 'deteriorating patient' policies/guidelines in acute NHS hospitals. METHODS: A copy of the local 'deteriorating patient' policy/guideline was requested from 152 hospitals. Each was analysed against pre-determined areas of interest, e.g., minimum expected vital sign observations frequency, expected response and expected staff response times. RESULTS: In the 55 responding hospitals (36.2%), the documented structure and process of the response to deterioration varied considerably. All hospitals used a 12-hourly minimum vital signs measurement frequency. Thereafter, for a low-risk patient, the minimum frequency varied from '6-12 hourly' to 'hourly'. Frequencies were higher for higher risk categories. Expected escalation responses were highly individualised between hospitals. Other than repeat observations, only nine (16.4%) documents described specific clinical actions for ward staff to consider/perform whilst awaiting responding personnel. Maximum permitted response times for medium-risk and high-risk patients varied widely, even when based on the same EWS. Only 33/55 documents (60%) gave clear instructions regarding who to contact 'out of hours'. CONCLUSIONS: The 'deteriorating patient' policies of the hospitals studied varied in their contents and often omitted precise instructions for staff. We recommend that individual hospitals review these documents, and that research and/or consensus are used to develop a national algorithm regarding the response to patient deterioration.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Early warning scores; National Early Warning Score; Patient deterioration; Policies; Rapid response systems
Group:Faculty of Health & Social Sciences
ID Code:32220
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:30 Apr 2019 09:49
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:16


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