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Seeing yellow in the interests of patient safety

12 April 2013

Hospitals and residential aged care in the Northern Region have come together to improve transfer of clinical information and improve care. March 2013 has seen the introduction of a ‘yellow envelope’ with an integrated check list of vital patient information for use when patients are transferred between residential aged care and hospital. This initiative, already in use in some other regions, was adapted from a model that had been successfully implemented in Northland. Regional teams joined forces to work together to create a new version that could be standardised and used across the Region.

Among the first to use the new yellow envelope was a resident who was admitted to North Shore Hospital and transferred to Auckland City Hospital before returning to her ‘home’. "The yellow envelope stayed with her all the way round, and we got it back with everything we needed in it. Great stuff,” says Midge Williams, Manager Maygrove Village Hospital.

St John Northern Region staff involved in the transfer of care have been so impressed they would like to see a wider implementation of the initiative.

“It has been helpful having a regional approach to find a suitable supplier and a means for both hospital and aged care staff to access the same envelopes,” says Tanya Bish, Quality & Professional Development Nurse Leader for Residential Age Care, Waitemata DHB. “The roll out of the yellow envelopes has also presented opportunities for relationship building. We held meetings at which ward charge nurses, residential aged care senior staff and staff working in Emergency Departments all got together in advance of the yellow envelope roll-out to discuss the process involved and any other issues that can arise when residents are transferred to and from hospital. These were well-attended and have been very beneficial.”

First, Do No Harm, in partnership with the Health of Older People Network, facilitated the development and roll-out of the yellow envelopes. Representatives from the Northern DHBs, St John and residential aged care sectors undertook this project and have been key in its successful launch.

“The roll-out has been a very good example of the acute and residential care sectors working together to improve safety by identifying local interventions that are effective and then implementing them on a regional scale,” says First, Do No Harm Clinical Lead Karen O’Keeffe.

Northland DHB will be adopting the new yellow envelopes once the stock of their original envelope is depleted.