Having one standard hospital 'patient score card' could save 6,000 lives every 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:

08:19 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

The lives of at least 6,000 hospital
patients could be saved each year by using a standard scoring system
that alerts doctors and nurses to their deteriorating condition.

A score of seven or more out of ten on a patient’s chart would result in their immediate transfer to specialist care.

At present one in 20 deaths in
hospital is rated as preventable, caused by factors such as poor
monitoring and dehydration, where staff failed to act soon enough.

The Royal College of Physicians says
half of these deaths could be avoided if all hospital staff used the
same national early warning score to trigger immediate action.

There are more than 100 different types of chart where patients’ vital signs are recorded, sometimes several times a day.

But there should be only one system
used by all staff who check on patients’ conditions – whether they are
in hospitals, care homes or in ambulances, says the RCP.

The system would mean doctors and nurses could move between hospitals without having to learn how to read a new chart.

The chart records vital signs such as pulse, temperature and blood pressure, giving each a score.

The doctor or nurse adds up the score
every time the vital signs are recorded, meaning they can recognise
immediately the severity of illness and whether the patient needs closer
monitoring, or transfer to critical care units. The score depends on
how much variation there is in a patient’s condition.

A medium score of five or six would alert a doctor or nurse to the need for an urgent assessment of the patient.

A high score of seven or more would
usually result in urgent transfer to more specialist facilities. Because
the doctor is alerted instantly to the score when they check a
patient’s vital signs, action is less likely to be delayed when a
patient starts to deteriorate.

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

Bryan Williams, chairman of the working party that developed the chart, said a study of 1,000 adults dying in acute hospitals in England and Wales estimated 5 per cent of the deaths were preventable – 12,000 a year.

He predicted around half the deaths could have been avoided using the standardised score for recognising very sick patients whose condition is worsening.

‘Many changes in healthcare are incremental but this new national early warning score has the potential to transform patient safety in our hospitals and improve patient outcomes, it is hugely important,’ said professor Williams.

Doctors and nurses could be easily trained on the scoring system, which should become part of undergraduate medical education, he said.

Janet Davies of the Royal College of Nursing 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 adopt this system as soon as possible, as countless lives could be saved in the future by adopting this simple process.’

Several trusts have already approached the RCP because they want to use the system.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of The Patients Association, said the new system should be introduced urgently.

She said the public would be shocked to learn that the NHS had ‘been operating such an ad hoc system’.