Planning ahead: Improving escalation plans before the weekend

BMJ Qual Improv Rep. 2014 Feb 21;2(2):u203854.w1730. doi: 10.1136/bmjquality.u203854.w1730. eCollection 2014.


Handover is the system by which responsibility for patient care is transferred between healthcare professionals. A significant aspect of handover is the existence of an escalation plan for each patient in case of deterioration over the weekend. According to the Royal College of Physicians, all patients should have a clear escalation plan documented in the notes before a weekend, since parent medical teams (Consultant team in charge of care) are best placed to make these decisions. If left to on-call teams, at a time of deterioration over a weekend, they might not have all available information, the patient might be unable to be involved in the decisions, and the family might not be consulted. With this is mind, we decided to analyse the existing handover process in a medium sized district general hospital, with the aim of improving the process and the documentation of escalation plans. The results from our retrospective analysis of the system in place revealed a significant lack of documentation of escalation plans in the medical notes. Three sample wards were selected to analyse the current handover system and test proposed measures before hospital-wide implementation. After trialling of a physical handover meeting in addition to the existing intranet system and a proforma for the Friday ward round, the documentation of escalation plans in the patients' notes improved from 9.1% to 41.1%. Based on these results, as well as formal feedback from junior doctors and informal feedback from other staff, the physical handover meeting and Friday ward round proforma will be implemented throughout the Trust. Our interventions led to an improvement in the documentation of escalation plans in our hospital, thus saving precious time in the event of a patient's deterioration. This also ensures that families and patients are involved in the decision making process and kept informed, and reduces the burden for the weekend on-call teams.