New National Early Warning Score could save 6,000 lives

Published on Friday, 27 July 2012 09:21
Posted by Scott Buckler

A new working party report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) says there should be a national system for recognising very sick patients whose condition is deteriorating and who need more intensive medical or nursing care

The working party also developed and piloted a National Early Warning Score for this purpose, which if implemented across the NHS, would result in a step-change upwards in patient safety.

Speaking at a press conference to launch the National Early Warning Score, Professor Bryan Williams, chair of the working party, estimated that 6,000 lives could be saved by its use.

The report, National early warning score (NEWS); standardising the assessment of acute-illness severity in the NHS, was produced by a multidisciplinary working group including doctors, nurses and managers.  Clinical observation charts and elearning materials were also produced by the NEWS educational programme, a collaborative project funded by the RCP, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the National Outreach Forum, and NHS Training for Innovation.

Each acute hospital bed has a chart that is used to record measurements such as the patient's pulse rate, blood pressure and temperature. These measurements help the nursing and medical teams decide the severity of illness of the patient and if the patient needs more urgent care.

At present, NHS Trusts use different early warning systems with different charts. As doctors and nurses move around different hospitals during their training and careers, they are not familiar with each Trust's system, resulting in a lack of consistency in detecting and responding to acutely ill patients.

Having one National Early Warning Score (NEWS) with the same charts in every hospital will:

  • Provide the basis for a unified and systematic approach to both the first assessment of the patient and continuous tracking of their clinical condition throughout their stay, with a simple trigger for escalating their care
  • Standardise the training of all staff engaged in the care of patients in hospitals in the National Early Warning Score system, so that staff should only need to be trained once instead of each time they move to a hospital that has a different system
  • Provide standardised data on regional variations in illness severity and resource requirements, as well as objective measurements of illness severity and clinical outcomes – an invaluable research resource

Source: RCP

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