Patient safety during COVID-19

Patient Safety Collaboratives and the Academic Health Science Networks which host them, are supporting their local health and care systems during the response to the COVID-19 outbreak in hospitals, care homes and the community.

Patient Safety Collaboratives, as part of the NHS National Patient Safety Improvement Programmes (NatPatSIPs), will focus on the following priorities over the next six months:

  • Identifying and managing people at risk of deterioration and sepsis
  • Implementing a tracheostomy care programme to help manage patients with a tracheostomy
  • Support for maternity and neonatal units

For more information, please contact your local Patient Safety Collaborative.


Spotting serious illness and sepsis

Some people are more at risk than others of becoming unwell very quickly and developing a serious illness such as sepsis. This is known as ‘deterioration’ and it is important that anyone who cares for individuals who are at risk of deterioration knows how to spot the signs, especially during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Find out about the tools available to help you recognise physical deterioration and take the appropriate actions.


Patient assessment in primary care

The assessment of patients who are unwell with COVID-19 or other causes presents a significant challenge for GPs and clinicians working in primary care. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the AHSN Network held a joint webinar looking at the role of oximetry and other physiology in that assessment on Wednesday 29 April 2020. Find out more here and watch the webinar.

The National Early Warning Score (NEWS) is used by GPs, all ambulance services and most acute hospital trusts. NEWS is associated with a reduction in mortality in those patients admitted with a possible diagnosis of sepsis without increasing the overall number of admissions, according to a paper just published by the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).

You can read more about how NEWS can be applied in primary care here.


Support for patients being discharged from hospital with COPD

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at increased risk from coronavirus. PSCs are temporarily pausing their work to actively promote the COPD discharge bundle, however they will remain available to provide any support that organisations require. There are more updates and resources for COPD here.


COVID-19 Mental Health Improvement Network

The COVID-19 Mental Health Improvement Network has been set up by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) on behalf of NHS England & Improvement. Its aim is to support mental health teams to share and learn from each other to maintain and improve safety in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This flyer has more information on the network and they are sharing changes that mental health providers have put in place to respond to COVID-19 challenges /safety issues on social media using #MHSIPCV19.


Support for healthcare workers’ psychological wellbeing

A new online package is available to support NHS staff and healthcare students with psychological wellbeing during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The package has been developed by Dr Holly Blake from the University of Nottingham, in collaboration with the University of Leicester.  It contains information, advice and tips on:

  • Psychologically safe work environments
  • Communication
  • Social stigma
  • Accessing social support
  • Self-care strategies
  • Rest, shift work, fatigue and sleep
  • Managing emotions during the pandemic


Stay safer with the SPACES ward care approach

SPACES (Sharing Patient Assessments Cuts Exposure for Staff) is a standarised approach to the management of ward care. It is based on the principle of maximum patient contact, minimum staff exposure.  SPACES can help keep staff safe and reduce PPE use. It is for everyone working on a ward with suspected or proven COVID-19 cases, and particularly for multi-professional teams.

You can access the information sheet and ward poster here and read a blog on its use from respiratory consultant Jon Bennett.


Rapid exercise tests for exertional desaturation in COVID-19

This paper, just published by the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, discusses why the assessment of the breathless or unwell patient with symptoms of COVID-19 should include oximetry. They examined two simple tests which may help identify people at greater risk from COVID-19. You can read the paper here.


Helping break unwelcome news

We have worked alongside Health Education England to publish a set of materials and films which aim to support staff through difficult conversations arising from the COVID-19 outbreak. You can download the tools here.


Wound care self-care guidance

The AHSN Network is supporting NHS England to develop a national Wound Care Strategy and has developed this guidance in response to the COVID-19 situation.


Human factors in ventilator design and operation

The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors group has published guidance for the design and operation of ventilators for COVID-19.

‘Human Factors in the Design and Operation of Ventilators for Covid-19 Guidance’ provides designers and manufacturers of ventilators with overarching advice and guidance on key themes for consideration and specific Human Factors and Ergonomic (HFE) issues in a period of  ‘crisis management’ requiring rapid design and production.

This document outlines seven key topics that designers and manufacturers of ventilators should address. Suggestions for how to address these issues and the link to the Covid-19 crisis are identified.


COVID-19 official resources

This document is a summary of some of the official information sources and website links for COVID-19. Information is constantly updated, so keep an eye on the NHS website too:

The Government has published this guidance for how to work safely in care homes and a guide to PPE for care home staff.

Internet offers to help care homes connect

During COVID-19, care providers are using digital technology to protect the health and wellbeing of vulnerable residents. Examples include video consultations with health professionals, ordering prescriptions, and supporting residents to talk with loved ones. NHSX and NHS Digital have negotiated and published a range of internet connection offers with telecom companies on the NHSX website. This is complemented by two new pieces of guidance: choosing an internet connection for your care home and how to use digital services in your care home.


NHS email accounts for care providers

NHSmail has made it easier for care homes and other social care providers to sign up for NHSmail. This provides them with a secure email account to safely exchange patient or sensitive information with other health and social care professionals. NHSmail is available to all domiciliary, residential or nursing care providers regardless of whether they support local authority, NHS or self-funded individuals. They may have one shared mailbox account and up to ten user accounts per site. More details are here.


Microsoft Teams to support remote working across NHS

NHS organisations should by now have been granted free access to the Microsoft Teams communication tool to support remote working in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. The tool lets you use instant messaging and audio and video calling  to support the delivery of frontline services, even while working remotely. Get more guidance here on using NHS teams, and the steps local organisations should take.

AHSN Network COVID-19 News Feed Patient Safety Collaboratives