Turning risk tools into life savers

According to the Royal College of Physicians, the updated National Early Warning Score tool could save 1,800 lives a year. Clinical adviser at the National Institute for Health Research Dissemination Centre Elaine Maxwell explores the possibilities.

In December, the Royal College of Physicians updated its 2012 National Early Warning Score (NEWS) tool for identifying deteriorating patients. It is estimated that standardising the use of the tool, known as NEWS2, could save 1,800 lives a year, and NHS England and NHS Improvement have announced their intention that by March 2019 all acute and ambulance settings will be using it. So far so good, but how does a risk scoring tool turn into a life saver?

What history shows us

Quality improvement by national mandate is an attractive option, but history shows us there’s many a slip between cup and lip; how things are done is as important as what is done.

The use of the World Health Organization surgical safety checklist is a case in point. Haynes et al (2009) showed significant reductions in adverse events, including deaths,


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