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Warning system aims to identify health deterioration in children

Warning system aims to identify health deterioration in children

An early warning system to help nurses and other health workers identify deterioration in children and young people has been launched by NHS England (NHSE).

The Paediatric Early Warning System (PEWS) – developed in partnership with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health – is initially intended for hospital settings but there are plans for expansion into community, mental health and ambulance services, according to the RCN.

Similar to the National Early Warning System already in place for adults, PEWS facilitates the tracking of a child’s condition on a chart through measurement of indicators such as blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels and levels of consciousness.

By allocating different scores representing the level of concern, staff can identify deterioration and escalate care where necessary.

Although many hospitals will already have a system in place, PEWS is intended to provide a single, national standardised process.

The system has been under development for more than three years, with pilots running across 15 sites. The PEWS charts have been published with a view to the system becoming embedded in hospitals by 2024/25, NHSE said.

Wendy Preston, the RCN’s head of nursing practice, now wants to see the warning system implemented successfully across the NHS.

‘For it to be effective, there must be investment in the nursing workforce including training and education of staff so they can use the new warning system to act swiftly when a patient’s condition deteriorates,’ she said.

NHSE is rolling out a leaflet and video content for parents, advising them on communicating concerns to healthcare staff and encouraging them to escalate their concerns if needed.

Ms Preston said: ‘Parents must be able to raise the alarm if their child is becoming seriously unwell. In the past children have needlessly, and tragically died.

‘Nursing is a safety-critical profession, and we have been calling for a standardised warning system in the NHS to try and stop such tragic cases from ever happening again.’

The RCN plans to publish a new web page providing resources on recognising and managing deterioration in a range of patient settings, including adult, mental health, maternity, children and young people, and learning disability. The organisation said the page would be ‘live soon’.

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