Having just one standard hospital chart 'could save thousands of lives a year'
Currently more than 100 different types of charts to monitor patients in the UKOne standard chart would help nurses and doctors when they move hospitals

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UPDATED:

01:44 GMT, 27 July 2012

Professor Bryan Williams said the new chart could potentially transform patient safety in UK hospitals

New gold standard: Professor Bryan Williams said the new chart could potentially transform patient safety in UK hospitals

Thousands of hospital deaths could be prevented if doctors and nurses used a standardised bed chart, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said.

Across the UK there are more than 100 different types of chart which monitor patients' vital signs.

But there should be just one system used for all staff who check on patients' conditions – whether they are in care homes, hospitals or in ambulances, the RCP said.

The College has developed a new chart which it is campaigning to have rolled out across all hospitals in the UK.

As
many as 6,000 deaths which are attributable to miscalculated
deterioration of patients' condition could be prevented once the new
system is in place, the RCP said.

The
National Early Warning Score (News) would mean that doctors and nurses
could easily move from one hospital to the next without having to learn
how to read a new chart.

The chart records vital signs such as pulse, temperature and blood pressure, giving them each a score. The healthcare worker then adds up each patient's score which indicates the severity of illness and whether the patient needs more urgent care.

Healthcare workers can learn to use the new charts in an online learning portal, developed by the Royal College of Nurses (RCN).

Professor Bryan Williams, chair of the working party which developed the new chart, said: 'Many changes in healthcare are incremental but this new National Early Warning Score (News) has the potential to transform patient safety in our hospitals and improve patient outcomes, it is hugely important.'

Professor Derek Bell, chair of the News educational subgroup, added: 'Developing and adopting a standardised early warning system will be one of the most significant developments in healthcare in the next decade.

'It will provide a platform for education and training at all levels of staff and will also allow us to undertake better research into patient outcomes and improve patient safety.'

Having the same new chart (pictured) would mean nurses and doctors could move between hospitals without having to learn a new system

Having the same new chart (pictured) would mean nurses and doctors could move between hospitals without having to learn a new system

RCN director of nursing and service
delivery Janet Davies said: 'There is nothing nurses and doctors should
prioritise more than patient safety, and this system, if implemented
across the board, will be a great leap forward for patient care.

'Excellent
systems for recognising patient deterioration do exist in many care
settings, and have undoubtedly saved many lives. However, this is the
first time clinical expertise and experience have come together to
standardise the best of that practice.

'I
hope that every trust will read this report and adopt this system as
soon as possible, as countless lives could be saved in the future by
adopting this simple process.'

The Patients Association welcomed the new chart system, saying it should be implemented 'urgently'.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the association, said: 'The public will be shocked to learn that the NHS has been operating such an ad hoc system of monitoring deterioration in a patient's condition – with different approaches in each hospital.

'It is therefore no surprise that the experience and outcome for so many patients is a negative one. This has led to a situation in which health professionals have to be trained in new procedures every time they move hospitals and no national clinical standards apply in terms of detecting what can often be an urgent need for action when a patient's treatment is failing.

'A National Early Warning Score is welcome in addressing some of these real risks, it should be implemented urgently and focus relentlessly on improving patient care, experience, outcomes and safety. It is time all trust boards paid attention to these vital systems within their trusts.'