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Patient obs app has ‘saved thousands of nursing hours’

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The nurse who developed an early warning app for patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital says the device has “saved thousands of nursing hours”.

Sarah Newcombe, a nurse and clinical site practitioner at the world famous children’s hospital, led the project to develop the app with technology firm Nervecentre. The app was developed and created by Nervecentre and configured for paediatrics in collaboration with Ms Newcombe.

“Nurses no longer need to leave the bedsides of sick children to call for extra help”

Sarah Newcombe

The technology went live in January 2015 and has been rolled out gradually following a six-month pilot on two wards. It is now used on almost all wards at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust.

Nervecentre, operated by nurses on tablets and smartphones, allows staff to enter the vital signs of up to 350 patients on a tablet or smartphone rather than using pen and paper.

It records the same information that used to be taken down on the clipboard at the foot of a patient’s bed – vital signs and statistic for temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate.

In the event of a power outage or software problem, staff revert to pen and paper but all patient information on the app is stored safely online in a “cloud”.

“Digital technology has a key role in improving delivery of care”

Jane Cummings

The app generates automatic alerts based on the information entered and allows staff to communicate directly with one another. Once vital signs are put into the system the app works out an early warning score, and alerts are sent to the registrar and clinical site practitioner, who have to accept the alert and then take action.

A crucial difference with the clipboard is that staff do not need to leave the bedside of a patient if they need help with an acutely ill patient. Staff say it has been particularly helpful on night shifts, when it was not previously possible to identify where the sickest patients were without doing a full ward round.

“It has really helped us to improve the visibility of our patients and the response times of clinicians,” said Ms Newcombe. “It has also saved thousands of nursing hours per year and has delivered more than 50,000 children’s Early Warning Score alerts per year.”

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

Patient obs app has ‘saved thousands of nursing hours’

Sarah Newcombe

At a time when there is a shortage of nurses and huge demand on the NHS, the app has helped to relieve some of the pressure, she said. “One of the biggest benefits is that nurses no longer need to leave the bedsides of sick children to call for extra help,” she said.

“If a patient’s condition deteriorates, the mobile device automatically instructs the nurse to stay with the patient, and sends an alert to senior staff,” she added.

Ms Newcombe won a Digital Leadership Award from NHS Digital in February 2017 for her work and now shares her knowledge of the technology with other trusts.

Caron Swinscoe, clinical lead for nursing at NHS Digital, said: “Bedside technology gives clinical staff crucial information about patients in the palm of their hand, which is accurate, up-to-date and shared by the whole team.”

Professor Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, described the innovation as an endorsement of the Royal College of Nursing’s “every nurse an e-nurse” campaign.

NHS Digital

Patient obs app has ‘saved thousands of nursing hours’

Caron Swinscoe

“Digital technology has a key role in improving delivery of care, health outcomes and efficiency and there is a real opportunity for all nursing, midwifery and care staff to take a lead on its development and use wherever they work,” she said.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said the college was pleased to be working with NHS Digital “for the benefit of the whole nursing workforce”.

“It’s vital that nurses have the skills they need to make the most of these opportunities, and that’s what this project is all about,” she said.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It sounds great but one thing is be scared of is that the senior member of staff / doctor doesn't receive the message? Is there a safety net in place with regards to that? Especially if the Dr is busy and cannot attend the call immediately, is wonder where they were and if they were coming...

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