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UK hospitals to trial scheme aimed at reducing child mortality

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Children’s hospitals are taking part in a trial programme aimed at improving paediatric care and reducing child deaths.

Twelve organisations, including Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, are part of the Situation Awareness for Everyone (S.A.F.E.) scheme.

“We know there is sometimes failure amongst healthcare professionals to recognise the severity of illness”

Peter Lachman

The programme is being led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and will include the participation of six paediatric departments at Greater London hospitals.

It will assess the health outcomes of using various care models such as the “huddle” technique, which sees clinical professionals engage with their non-clinical colleagues in open and frank 10-minute discussions regarding patient care.

The idea is to pool information in order to enable professionals to identify more efficiently when a child’s condition is getting worse and help them spot symptoms earlier, leading to faster, more accurate diagnoses.

The trial comes as it is estimated there are around 2,000 healthcare and non-healthcare amenable deaths each year in the UK, compared with some of Western Europe’s best performing countries.

Dr Peter Lachman, clinical lead for S.A.F.E, said: “Although causes of avoidable child mortality are complex, we know there is sometimes failure amongst healthcare professionals to recognise the severity of illness.

Health Foundation

Peter Lachman

“That coupled with variable quality of communication across professional boundaries, and with parent/patient communication, makes it clear that more needs to be done to address this,” he said. “That’s where S.A.F.E can help.

“Some hospitals already adopt elements of these care techniques to address these issues, however, recent evidence suggests that a more holistic approach is needed and it needs to be applied at scale,” he added.

“We estimate that this programme could reduce deterioration of children in paediatric wards by at least 50% and decrease serious outcomes by at least 10%,” said Dr Lachman.

At a cost of more than £500,000, the scheme will last for two years and is being delivered by the S.A.F.E. partnership – RCPCH, UCLPartners, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Anna Freud Centre.

The Health Foundation is funding the programme as part of its Closing the Gap in Patient Safety scheme, with extra support from the charity WellChild and UCLPartners.

One of the chief objectives of the trial is to cut levels of avoidable error and harm to acutely sick children by 2016.

It also aims to close the gap between health outcomes for UK children and those in other countries.

Improving communication between families and all professionals involved in looking after a child is another key objective of the programme. And it is hoped this will help to engage families more actively in their child’s care.


The participating hospitals are:

  • Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
  • Birmingham Children’s Hospital
  • Evelina Children’s Hospital
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital
  • Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital
  • Sheffield Children’s Hospital
  • Barts and the London
  • Luton & Dunstable
  • North Middlesex
  • Royal Free
  • Watford General
  • Whittington


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