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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Keeping patients safe on wards at north Cumbria's hospitals

Keeping patients safe on wards at north Cumbria's hospitals

Posted on Wednesday 25th January 2012

Gill Long, Productive Ward Co-ordinator and Diane Murchison, Nursing Policy & Practice Development Co-ordinator

A bespoke assessment system to monitor nursing standards and care has been developed at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.

AWard Health Check is carried out every month on all wards and departments at both hospitals and is an assessment of basic “housekeeping” and management to standardise good practice right across our hospitals. A Clinical Indicator test is also undertaken in all inpatient wards and is an assessment of clinical care to ensure patients are receiving the care that meets their expectations.

The scheme began to be introduced from August 2011 following the successful introduction of the Auditr – the Realtime Patient Experience Survey that was also placed into hospitals in north Cumbria to gather the views of patients and staff.

Using the same ipad system as Auditr, the Monthly Ward Health Check and Clinical Indicators have now been rolled out across all wards over the last three months. The results gathered allow senior nursing staff to benchmark their performance and it has already shown that significant improvements are taking place.

The Monthly Ward Health Check assesses communication; food & nutrition; infection control; manual handing; privacy & dignity; self care; safe environment; and VTE (deep vein thrombosis) assessments.

For example, are all staff wearing their ID badges? Are they aware of how to find an interpreter? Are patient information leaflets kept up-to-date? Are hand-gels available at all points of care? Do all staff are follow the Trust’s uniform policy? And, are bathrooms kept clean and tidy with liquid soap, towels and tissue paper provided?

The Clinical Indicators cover 13 nursing standards to ensure staff are maintaining good safety checks on patients and that optimum nursing care is being provided. The Clinical Indicators cover communication; bowel and bladder care; falls assessments; food & nutrition; infection control; manual handing; medicines management; pain management; patient observation; personal & oral hygiene; privacy & dignity; self care and tissue viability.

On each of the 13 clinical indicators each ward needs to achieve 95% or more in order that their area is “green” and staff can declare they are one of the most efficient wards in our hospitals. If a mark is below 95%, the system prompts an alert so that timely action can be taken to put things right and this is discussed by the ward staff.

Diane Murchison, Nursing Policy & Practice Development Co-ordinator, progressed the new ward assessment programmes in the hospitals supported by Gill Long, Productive Ward Co-ordinator, and Mark Irving, Cancer Nurse Specialist, who introduced Auditr to the hospitals two years ago.

Diane said: “We wanted to introduce a bespoke system to the hospitals that would provide an ongoing assessment of how wards are performing overall and most importantly, delivering services and keeping our patients safe.

“The Clinical Indicators are an assurance that the quality of care we deliver is of the highest standard. It is a measurable assessment of essential care on a ‘back to basics’ theory.

“The system is so dynamic that we can change it as the needs of our patients change and there are so many benefits to this. This has been recognised by all our wards and staff and they are finding it is helping to build real professional pride in what they are doing and gives them a real sense of recognition of their excellent work.

“The Monthly Ward Health Check and Clinical Indicator results will be displayed on each ward so that our patients and staff can see how the ward is performing.”

The benefits of the system include:

  • The collection of real-time data which means any improvements can take place immediately
  • It allows the Trust to scrutinise standards of care in individual areas of the hospitals
  • Empower wards leaders to take ownership of standards of care
  • Allows for comparisons throughout the hospitals
  • Identifies areas of good practice
  • Shows where areas need to be improved
  • Provides an early warning system
  • Introduces healthy competition
  • Builds professional pride
  • Provides assurance to the Trust Board and external agencies that care is being delivered to a set standard