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Hospitals adopt surf lifesaving approach

Thursday, 21st January, 2010

* Janet Daley, Nurse Unit Manager Medical Ward (left), and Lyndall Morris, Patient Safety and Clinical Quality Officer with the new Between The Flags chart. * Janet Daley, Nurse Unit Manager Medical Ward (left), and Lyndall Morris, Patient Safety and Clinical Quality Officer with the new Between The Flags chart.

A world's-first program designed to improve the safety and care of patients in NSW hospitals has been launched in the city.

The program called "Between the Flags" uses the analogy of Surf Life Saving Australia's lifeguards, who mark out safe zones on the beach, observe swimmers closely, prevent them from getting into danger and help them if anything goes wrong.

In a hospital, the "lifeguards" are staff who know when a patient is "between the flags", by observing vital signs and clinical condition. "The program was developed to enhance the early recognition and management of patients who are clinically deteriorating.

The program will help prevent unexpected deaths and reduce the risk of harm to patients," said Lynda McKenzie, Project Officer for Early Detection and Management of Deteriorating Patients.

It will be used in 48 facilities and will involve training for all staff involved in the care and management of patients.

A redesigned observation chart will be standardised across all NSW acute inpatient facilities to help with the recognition of vital signs of patient deterioration. "The observation chart will make it easier for health professionals to monitor and recognise vital signs, such as breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature," Ms McKenzie said.

"The charts will have coloured zones - yellow and red.

The yellow section will recognise early warning signs that will require a clinical review, while the red will alert the doctor or nurse to a rapid response.

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