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Handover project protects patient safety

8 May 2012
Northland DHB is leading a project aimed at reducing harm caused to patients by ineffective clinical handover.

An agreed handover process will be in place by the end of June that will apply to shift changes for all medical, surgical and orthopaedic house officers.

The aim is to reduce preventable patient harm, caused by communication failures during clinical handover, by 20 per cent within two years.

Northland DHB – a partner in the First, Do No Harm regional patient safety campaign - is taking action on handover processes after reviewing incident reports suggesting there was a need for change.

There were 84 care coordination incidents reported at NDHB involving failures in communication and handover in 2011.

Project sponsor Rod Harpin said the impacts of harm caused to patients should not be underestimated.

“Our patients are real people with real lives and real families. We need to do everything we can to minimise preventable harm during their care,” he said.

“We want our patients back at home, back at work and back to their normal lives as soon as possible.

“Whether it is a medication error, a fall or a pressure injury, it has an impact on the life of the patient and on those people close to them.

“It’s our job to take every reasonable precaution to avoid these adverse events.

“Improving our handover processes is one way of reducing communication errors that can lead to preventable injury.”

Current handover processes are considered unreliable and highly variable.

This increases the risk of unnecessary delays in diagnosis, treatment and care and of repeating tests due to missed or delayed communication of test results.

The likelihood of medication errors and of providing incorrect treatment is also increased.

“This is an opportunity to implement change that will prevent harm to our patients and improve the way the hospital functions.

“We are confident we can meet our target and provide safer care to our community.

“Regardless of the results, we will share our findings with the region so that other DHBs can implement handover changes without having to start from scratch.”

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