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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Safety huddles result in cardiac arrest reduction

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A pilot project which involves staff having regular 'huddles' to assess the health of patients has resulted in a reduction in the number of cardiac arrests on wards.

A key part of this quality improvement project, which is being held on Acute General Medicine and Vascular Surgery wards at the John Radcliffe, is safety huddles, held a number of times throughout the day.

These short gatherings allow staff on each ward to highlight concerns about patients whose condition they feel might be deteriorating. This ensures that all staff are aware of each patient's condition so that those most at risk can be prioritised. Each ward focuses on particular areas, whether improving handovers or their escalation procedures.

"What we know about patients in hospital is that cardiac arrest is often an end point, it's not sudden. It often happens after there has been a period of deterioration," explains Ann Thompson, the resuscitation officer who is leading the pilot.

The aim of the pilot was to achieve a 20 percent fall in cardiac arrests in two years, but one ward has already achieved this after one year, while another has also registered a reduction.

There are now plans to roll out this approach to other areas with higher incidence of cardiac arrests and where it will have the greatest impact, such as in Neurosciences and on surgical wards.

Ann says another important factor is that the Trust has moved from reporting observations on paper to the SEND electronic documentation system on tablets, which also allows doctors to keep track of patients' progress remotely.

"When you entered observations manually, there was an increased risk of user error, whereas now, SEND does it automatically, and tells you the action to take now, based on the patient score. There’s more certainty and it’s more obvious which patients to prioritise."