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Quality improvement of doctors' shift-change handover in neuro-critical care
  1. M N Lyons1,
  2. T D A Standley2,
  3. A K Gupta1,3,4
  1. 1Postgraduate Medical Centre, The Clinical School, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2University Division of Anaesthesia, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK
  3. 3Neurosciences Critical Care Unit, Cambridge, UK
  4. 4Addenbrooke's Simulation Centre, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Melinda Lyons, National Patient Safety Agency, 4-8 Maple Street, London W1T 5HD, UK; melinda_lyons{at}


Background Clinical handover is a necessary process for the continuation of safe patient care; however, deficiencies in the handover process can introduce error. While the number of handover studies increases, few have validated implemented improvements with repeated audit.

Objective To improve the morning handover round on a busy critical care unit and assess sustainability of improvement through repeated audit.

Design/Methods A quality improvement process based on prospective observational assessment of the doctor's shift-change handover was carried out, assessing the content of clinical information and effects of distractions, location and timing. The effect of a training session for the junior doctors with the introduction of a standardised handover protocol was assessed.

Results The content of clinical information improved after the training session with introduction of a standardised protocol, but returned to baseline with a new cohort of untrained doctors. Distractions were associated with increased handover times for individual patients and for total handover time. Overall, handover time was shortest in the coffee room compared with ward and lecture theatre handovers. Individual patient handover time was positively correlated with clinical content scores. Four indices of critical illness all positively correlated with increased handover time.

Conclusions Early specific training is vital for quality clinical handover. Distractions during handover cause inefficiency and can adversely affect information transfer. Changing handover location according to local environment can yield improved efficiency, structure and ease of management. Adequate time must be allocated for clinical handover especially when dealing with very sick and complex patients.

  • Handover
  • quality improvement
  • patient safety
  • human factors
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  • Funding Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust, Box 126, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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