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Top children’s hospitals to trial new ‘care techniques’

£500,000 programme aims to reduce avoidable death and harm to acutely sick children being treated in UK hospitals by 2016

Health experts have been awarded over half a million pounds to develop and trial a suite of quality improvement techniques that aim to reduce preventable deaths and error occurring in the UK's paediatric departments - currently there are an estimated 2,000 healthcare and non-healthcare amenable deaths each year compared to the best performing countries in Western Europe.

The Situation Awareness for Everyone (S.A.F.E) programme, led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), will trial models of care including the 'huddle' technique - a ten minute free, frank exchange of information between clinical and non-clinical professionals involved in a patient's care - in a bid to encourage information sharing and to equip professionals with the skills to spot when a child's condition is deteriorating as well as prevent missed diagnosis.

The two year programme, which is being delivered by the S.A.F.E partnership - RCPCH, UCLPartners, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and the Anna Freud Centre, who will evaluate the programme -  for the first time, will see 12 hospitals including flagship children's hospitals Evelina London Children's Hospital, Alder Hay, Birmingham, Great Ormond Street, Royal Manchester and Sheffield Children's Hospital working together to implement these techniques at each of their sites alongside six paediatric departments at Greater London hospitals.

Funded as part of the Health Foundation's Closing the Gap in Patient Safety programme, with additional support from WellChild and UCLPartners, the programme aims to:

  • Reduce avoidable error and harm to acutely sick children by 2016
  • Improve communication between all healthcare professionals involved in a child's care as well as families to ensure treatment is consistent and of the same high standard regardless of postcode or class
  • Close the disparity in health outcomes for children in UK vs other countries as well as between children's care and adult care
  • Involve parents, children and young people to be better involved in their children's/own care

Dr Peter Lachman, Clinical Lead for S.A.F.E and member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

"Inconsistent standards of care across paediatric units are one of many factors making health outcomes for children in the UK among the worst in Western Europe.

"Although causes of avoidable child mortality are complex, we know there is sometimes failure amongst healthcare professionals to recognise the severity of illness. 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. 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.

"Based on this, 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%. In addition to this, we believe that there will be a reduction in serious incidents and a change in the culture from reactive responses to proactive prevention of harm. And it doesn't stop there. If proven successful, there is scope for this model to be rolled out wider so it not only improves the care of children, but improves the care delivered to adults in the UK and beyond."


Walter Tann, Divisional Lead Nurse (Children) at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital (RMCH) says: "RMCH are in full support of the project by RCPCH and are actively engaged in with working with the RCPCH over the coming months. We are pleased to confirm that aspects of Safety Huddles are already an active part of our working practice in some clinical areas. However, this project will allow RMCH to work more closely and in partnership with other major children's hospitals so that we can further improve safety huddles and ensure their wide scale use across all our services in the hospital."


Find out more about S.A.F.E by visiting the RCPCH's website - www.rcpch.ac.uk/safe .

General Information:
  • The 'Huddle' is an intervention used by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre and has led to improved efficiencies, improved quality of information sharing, increased level of accountability, empowerment, and sense of community which has resulted in an increase in staff's quality of collective awareness and enhanced capacity for eliminating patient harm

  • S.A.F.E is being delivered by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in partnership with UCLPartners, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and Anna Freud Centre

  • Hospitals taking part in the quality improvement programme are: Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Birmingham Children's Hospital, Evelina London 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 and Whittington