THE DAYS of traditional hospital charts could be numbered.

Nurses and doctors at the Great Western Hospital are to be handed mobile-style hand-held devices, using them to log patients’ vital signs such as heart rate, breathing and blood oxygen.

It is hoped that more than 700 of the devices will be distributed by September – with around half going directly to ward nurses.

The technology roll-out is part of a bid by managers at the Marlborough Road hospital to further improve patient safety. 

The hospital already uses national scheme NEWS (National Early Warning Score) to track patients’ health information, by monitoring a slew of measures, including blood pressure and heart rate.

Nurses currently use a paper chart developed by the Royal College of Physicians, to calculate their patients’ NEWS scores. The higher their patient score on a scale of zero to 18, the sicker they are deemed to be. 

The initiative – which is also employed by paramedics and some GPs – is used to track whether or not a person’s health is deteriorating. If a patient receives a high NEWS score, they are monitored more regularly – or an emergency team of specialist doctors and nurses could be called up to the ward.

Sarah Canfield, an Intensive Care Unit matron at GWH, said that the new electronic system would help already busy nurses. The hand-held devices would automatically remind nurses when their patients were due to have a new set of observations recorded – as well as alerting specialist teams if a patient records a dangerously high NEWS score.

The experienced nurse, who has been at the Swindon hospital for 12 years, said: “We have had it in the trust where the nurse beeps the doctor and something else happens and they haven’t managed to get back to the call. What this will do is alert them [the doctor], alert them again and if there’s still no answer, it will keep going up the hierarchy. 

“In a busy hospital like this, that will be invaluable.” 

GWH plans to buy more than 700 devices. At least 360 of the machines will be used by nursing teams on the wards, with the rest being given to specialist clinicians. 

Hospital chiefs hope that the electronic monitoring system will be in place by the autumn.

The initiative follows a string of measures to improve patient safety at the hospital. At a talk given by matron Ms Canfield for GWH members on Thursday night, it was revealed that the hospital saw just 51 cardiac arrests in 2017 – below the national average.

She credited a new approach to poorly patients. Rather than nurses waiting until their patients go into cardiac arrest before paging specialist “crash teams”, now the emergency teams are called to the wards earlier.

“We’re rescuing patients a lot quicker,” she said.