Funding awarded to develop warnings for deteriorating health

Youngsters at Manor Infant School and Nursery celebrate with headteacher Ashley Howard, centre. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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  • Researchers from Portsmouth and Oxford received funding
  • Electronic warning system will recognise when patients’ health deteriorates
  • New approach will create a better overall picture for each patient
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RESEARCHERS in Portsmouth have won £1.8m to develop an electronic early warning system to recognise when patients’ health deteriorates.

The project is seen as a step towards ‘digital’ hospitals, in which all sources of patient information are interlinked and available to healthcare staff, ensuring better patient safety.

Early-warning signs that a patient is deteriorating currently rely on nurses recognising signs, including blood pressure, heart rate and temperature.

Dr Jim Briggs, at the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Healthcare Modelling and Informatics, said: ‘It’s important that the information already collected in hospital information systems is used to maximum advantage to the patient.

‘The project will extend the range of information that can be used to monitor deteriorating patients, which will have a significant impact on patient safety.’

The system will allow other values, such as blood test results or previous medical history, to be included in the assessment, creating a better overall picture of each patient.

Previous work has shown that specific at-risk patients can be identified up to 24 hours earlier using this method.

The collaboration combines expertise and resources from Queen Alexandra Hospital and the University of Portsmouth, and NHS and academics in Oxford to come up with a new approach to identifying faster those patients at higher risk of needing intensive care.

The team from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust is led by Dr Greta Westwood and includes Professor David Prytherch, a clinical outcomes researcher.

He said: ‘This system will combine routinely collected clinical data, currently stored on different hospital computers, into a single index to identify deteriorating patients more quickly and so enable a faster clinical response.’

Carol Elliott, senior lead for Healthwatch Portsmouth said she supported the idea.

‘We’re aware that some hospitals are already trialling electronic devices that enable staff to monitor vital signs to respond quickly to patients at risk of reaching critical conditions.

‘Prompt identification will be able to support nursing staff to respond in good time, which will ultimately help reduce the risk of death or long stays in hospital.

‘Given the time and resource pressures nursing staff are under there is always an element of human error in missing vital signs, therefore anything that reliably assists them in identifying those most at risk and preventing that deterioration is a good thing.’