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Using failure to rescue to compare care

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This article tells you about:

  • What ‘failure to rescue’ is
  • What are the potential points of failure
  • How failure to rescue rates are compared between hospitals

You would be likely to reference this article if you were researching:

  • failure to rescue
  • deteriorating patient
  • patient observations

In what situations will this article be useful to me?

Nurses have a responsibility to identify when a patient’s condition is deteriorating through taking, recording and interpretation of patient observations. If a patient dies when their condition was treatable this is referred to as ‘failure to rescue’ (FTR). This article explains how the rates of FTR can be used as indicators of the quality of care and compared between hospitals.

Questions for your mentor/tutor

  • What are other indicators of quality of care?
  • What are the difficulties in comparing indicators of care quality?


  • Failure to rescue
  • Failure to rescue is when a patient who has had a surgical procedure dies from a cause that was preventable.

Early warning scores

Early warning scores use physiological measurements such as pulse and blood pressure recording to help identify patients who are, or who may become, critically ill. A combination of patient observations gives a score which can provide an early indication of deterioration.

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