Early warning scores are used in the NHS to identify patients in acute care whose health is deteriorating, but medics say it could actually be putting people in danger.
The rollout of an early warning system used in hospitals to identify patients at the greatest risk of dying is based on flawed evidence, according to a study published in the BMJ which suggests that much of the research supporting the rollout of NEWS was biased and overly reliant on scores that could put patients at greater risk..
Medical researchers said problems with NHS England's National Early Warning Scores (NEWS) system had emerged "frequently" in reports on avoidable deaths.
The system sees each patient given an overall score based on a number of vital signs such as heart rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure and level of consciousness. Doctors and nurses can then prioritise patients with the most urgent NEWS scores.
But some professionals have argued that the system has reduced nursing duties to a checklist of tasks rather than a process of providing overall clinical assessment.
Professor Alison Leary, a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing and chair of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University, told The Independent: “In our analysis of prevention of future death reports from coroners, early warning scores and misunderstanding around their use feature frequently".
“It's clear that some organisations use scoring systems and a more tick box approach to care as they lack the right amount of appropriately skilled staff, mostly registered nurses.”
“Early warning scores might not perform as well as expected and therefore they could have a detrimental effect on patient care,” the authors of the research conclude. “Future work should focus on following recommended approaches for developing and evaluating early warning scores, and investigating the impact and safety of using these scores in clinical practice.”
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Source: The Independent, 21 May 2020