Roll-out of early warning system saves patients' lives
A SYSTEM of early warning alerts for medical staff – aimed at helping them spot a deteriorating patient – has already cut cardiac arrests by around a quarter in the majority of acute hospitals.
Around 80pc of acute hospitals have been using the new set of early warning scores for the past year and there is already evidence it is leading to patients who are beginning to fail being picked up on time.
Dr Gary Courtney, the HSE's national lead for acute medicine, said data from the first year indicated that there has been a 25pc reduction in cardiac arrests across the hospitals involved.
He was speaking as Health Minister James Reilly formally launched the National Early Warning Score for Ireland for adult patients in acute hospitals.
The score is calculated based on a series of common signs such as the patient's pulse rate, temperature and blood pressure level and a high score will prompt an immediate senior medical staff review.
The severity of the patient's illness is categorised and this prompts nursing staff to ask a senior doctor to carry out the review and enforce an escalation plan to avert the danger.
It is most useful in preventing cardiac arrest, heavy bleeding or deterioration due to infection such as the bacterial infection sepsis, which can progress to life-threatening septic shock.
"The patients are being picked up as they deteriorate," said Dr Courtney, a consultant in Kilkenny Hospital.
"Doctors are called and must respond. It may involve giving oxygen, antibiotics or fluids – things that are not difficult to do. It prevents the patient getting sicker and is a massive safety net," he added.
Ireland is the first country to make these guidelines apply nationally, which means that the same standard applies in every hospital.