Headlines: October 17th, 2003

Hospital patients who are critically ill or are in danger of becoming so are getting better care as a result Critical Care Outreach. This initiative is part of the Critical Care Modernisation Programme launched in May 2000. A report by the Department of Health sets out the progress made in the last year.Outreach services have helped reduce pressures on critical care units and increased staff skills and knowledge. A warning system has been introduced in some hospitals to ensure patients are referred to the critical care at the right time. This earlier identification has reduced the average length of stay of patients in critical care units from 7.4 to 4.8 days. In other cases outreach support and increased skill levels of general ward staff has reduced hospital mortality by 8% and reduced re-admissions by 7%. Systematic patient monitoring has reduced the time taken to admit a patient to Intensive Care from an average of 15.5 hours to 5.5 hours.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: “Critical care outreach is one of the success stories of the Critical Care Modernisation Programme. This report clearly illustrates how staff, working in new and different ways can bring improvements to care provided to patients who are at risk of becoming critically ill and help reduce admissions to critical care units. They can help with the early identification of patients at risk of needing critical care that can shorten lengths of stay in critical care units. This is an excellent example of multi-professional; multi-skilled working that is improving the delivery of care to patients.”

Critical Care Outreach has not yet extended to all hospitals. Because many of the complex services are nurse led, restrictions on prescribing rights are also limiting progress.