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Patient safety pilot shows improved results

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A tool for measuring four key areas of nursing appears to increase the likelihood of older patients receiving “harm free” care, according to a report seen by Nursing Times.

The number of older patients receiving harm free care increased by 4.2% during a pilot of the “NHS Safety Thermometer”.

The tool is intended to provide a quick and simple method for recording and improving local rates of falls, pressure ulcers, urinary infections from a catheter and new venous thromboembolisms. It was developed and tested during the Safety Express pilot scheme, which ran from July 2010 to September 2011.

Information was collated from 50,000 returns from different care settings, including nursing homes and patients’ own homes, although 80% came from hospitals. As well as measuring data, the pilot focused on training, active risk management and encouraging staff to prioritise interventions which could stop patients experiencing further harm.

A report on the pilot, obtained by Nursing Times, showed an increase in patients over 70 receiving harm free care rising from 83.8% at the start of the scheme to 88% at the end.

The report also pointed to differences in the safety of care received by patients in different regions. At the start of the pilot the East Midlands saw only 79.3% of patients received “harm free” care, compared to 89.5% in the north east.

At the end of the pilot the largest difference between regions had shrunk to 6.2%, with the East Midlands’ figure rising to 84.2% and the north west achieving the highest figure of 90.4%.

The Department of Health is backing the widespread implementation of the safety thermometer. It announced in November that a new incentive payment will be introduced in April for hospitals to use it.

The measurement tool was also highlighted by David Cameron in January in a high profile speech on nursing. 

However, as Nursing Times revealed in December, tissue viability nurses have raised concerns about the consistency of pressure ulcer data across the country. They highlighted problems with data quality and the lack of nationally-agreed definitions (news, page 2, 13 December).

As reported earlier this month, eight trusts in the north west have begun publishing monthly scorecards across five areas of nursing practice, including falls and pressure ulcers (news, page 2, 6 March).

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