Hospital nurses using newly-adopted smartphone technology to record observations have led to a spike in patients reporting that staff are making personal phone calls.
The new handheld devices are being rolled out across Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole hospitals to help nursing staff identify deteriorating patients.
“We have had a number of comments from patients and visitors about staff being on their phones”
The smartphones allow staff to record vital signs at the bedside so they can quickly recognise anyone whose condition may be deteriorating, said Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust.
However, the trust also noted that patients and visitors had confused when staff were using the technology with nurses making phone calls.
“The devices do look like mobile phones so we have had a number of comments from patients and visitors about staff being on their phones in work time,” said Jenn Orton, project lead and associate chief nurse for surgery and critical care at the trust.
She highlighted that the devices had a “W” sticker on the back of the device to identify them as being part of the trust’s existing electronic WebV system.
The devices integrate with WebV, which is a bespoke “virtual ward” system that was designed alongside clinicians, said the trust.
It is used by a range of staff, including nurses, to help improve the way patients are managed on hospital wards.
The system alerts staff when observations are overdue, gives access to test results and allows staff to view a whole ward or even an entire hospital virtually as a bed management system.
It means staff can see at a glance which patients are on which ward, and whether they have any particular needs, such as support with eating and drinking, noted the trust.
The rollout of the handheld devices forms part of a deteriorating patient improvement project at the trust, which involves a range of initiatives to improve staff response rates and interventions.
Ms Orton added: “Taking timely observations is a vital part of ensuring we are recognising and acting on patients who are deteriorating.
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“We have rolled the devices out to 22 wards so far and over the coming months every ward will receive this new technology,” she said.
The deteriorating patient project itself is also part of a wider programme called Improving Together, which was set up in response to a critical Care Quality Commission report.
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole was put back into “special measures” in April, after inspectors raised serious concerns about quality, safety and ongoing staffing issues.
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Inspectors, who rated the trust “inadequate” overall, identified significant issues in outpatients, maternity and in urgent and emergency care.
These included that care and treatment of patients in both hospitals’ accident and emergency departments “did not always meet their basic care needs”, with questions about nursing input.
The trust was one of 11 originally placed into special measures by Sir Bruce Keogh in July 2013, as part of his review of hospitals with high mortality rates. It left the support regime in April 2014.