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Right Arrow Patient observation technology saves lives, says study
24 September 2014 at 13:57
Pioneering technology used by nurses at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust was recognised today as contributing to big drops in deaths in hospitals, research published in BMJ Quality & Safety reports.

The study found that death rates fell by 15% after the VitalPAC system was introduced at two large hospitals in England.

The drop in mortality represented more than 750 lives saved in a single year across the two sites, the paper found.

VitalPAC allows nurses to use handheld devices, such as iPods, instead of paper charts to record patients’ vital signs like blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels.

Specialist software automatically calculates if the patient is deteriorating. Where this is the case, the device warns the nurse to increase the frequency of monitoring and, when required, to alert a doctor or a rapid response team.

VitalPAC has been in use at Ormskirk and District General Hospital since August in H ward. The next wards to adopt it will be 9A and 14A at Southport hospital and G ward at Ormskirk with the rest of the Trust following shortly afterwards.

Matron Bridget Lees, clinical lead for the project, said: “Since we have brought in VitalPAC we have seen real benefits to patients and clinical staff. Recording patient vital signs is quicker and more accurate and nurses get early warning if a patient is showing signs of deterioration, so they can take action.”

Information recorded on the handheld devices is automatically uploaded to a hospital-wide system allowing nurses, doctors and managers to monitor the health of patients across all wards. Staff on ward rounds have real-time access to information from any device connected to the hospital network.

VitalPAC was funded with a £986,000 award from the Nursing Technology Fund. The Trust is only one of two using the software in the North West.

Roger Killen, Chief Executive of The Learning Clinic, the company which developed VitalPAC, said: “This is a great example of a collaboration between front-line clinicians, engineers and software designers to create a system which brings clear benefits to patients and staff. The BMJ Quality and Safety paper confirms, based on studying results at two large hospitals, that introducing VitalPAC was followed by dramatic falls in mortality.”

The study in BMJ Quality & Safety reported a fall of almost 400 deaths among patients in one year at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, and a drop of more than 370 in the same period at University Hospital, Coventry, according to the research.

An accompanying editorial in the journal described the research as “an important milestone” in improving patient safety and said the lowering of mortality at these two hospitals “represents a truly dramatic improvement”.

VitalPAC was introduced in Portsmouth in 2005 and in Coventry two years later. Researchers compared the actual number of deaths in each hospital following deployment of the system with estimates based on the number dying in the year before roll-out. In 2010, some 397 fewer patients than expected died at Portsmouth. At Coventry, the figure was 372 patients.

Picture shows Health Care Assistant Angela Disley and Junior Sister Michelle Durney using VitalPAC on Ward H at Ormskirk hospital

Issued by Tony Ellis, marketing and communications manager
Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust

Telephone 01704 704494
Twitter @SONHSTrust

Notes for editors

1. Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust manages Southport and Formby District General Hospital and Ormskirk and District General Hospital, and is responsible for many community healthcare services for adults in Southport, Formby and West Lancashire. We also provide sexual health services across Sefton and West Lancashire. The Trust has a budget of £186m and employs 3,600 staff. In 2013/14, we saw 248,102 outpatients; treated 61,096 inpatients; made 305,750 community care contacts outside hospital; supported the birth of 2,766 babies; and attended to 95,146 urgent care cases.

2. To interview Roger Killen, contact The Learning Clinic on 020 8746 4545 or and @VitalPAC. Out of hours please contact Michael Clarke on 07872 158833 or and @michaelclarke99

3. The paper and accompanying editorial can be viewed online at from 0001 Wednesday 24 September 2014

4. The 15% fall in the mortality rate in the press notice above is calculated on the basis of a drop at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, from 7.75% to 6.42% (a 17% fall) and a drop from 7.57% to 6.15% at University Hospital Coventry (an 18.76% fall)

5. The Learning Clinic is a health improvement company which has deployed VitalPAC to more than 40 hospitals across England, where it helps nurses take more than ten million sets of patient observations each year.