Standardised warning system to spot seriously-ill patients would 'save 2,000 NHS patients a year'

Nearly 2,000 lives could be saved annually if all hospitals adopted the same system for spotting seriously-ill patients, NHS officials have said.

By using a standardised warning system to spot seriously-ill patients, nurses and doctors could move from ward to ward and hospital to hospital and would already know how to use the clinical assessment system.

The National Early Warning Score (News) system, developed by the Royal College of Physicians, sees patients given a score based on various clinical factors including heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and their breathing.

The score determines whether a patient needs care from a nurse, ward doctor or critical care team.

NHS England has ordered every hospital and ambulance service to adopt the system by 2019, but only seven in 10 are currently doing so.

If every organisation used the system then 2,000 lives and 627,000 "bed days" could be saved every year, NHS England has estimated.

"Air Traffic Control systems around the world use common standards and language to prevent disasters and the NHS, with the safety of millions of patients every year at stake, should be no different,” said Sir Bruce Keogh.

"If staff move between hospitals and end up speaking at cross-purposes, warning signs are missed and patient care can be compromised.

"I want to see every hospital in the country using the News approach by 2019 as we continually strive to make sure the NHS delivers the highest standards of care possible."

Royal College of Physicians' president, professor Jane Dacre, said: "Over the next year News will become the default early warning score for NHS Trusts and ambulances.

"Patients will benefit from its implementation, and staff will benefit from not having to learn a new score each time they join a new Trust."