Verbal handover alone compromises patient safety, and supporting written documents significantly increases retention of information, with printed handover sheets being the best at avoiding data loss. The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has produced guidelines on safe handover practice, in which a minimum dataset is recommended for inclusion when handing over patients to incoming surgical teams, and studies have indicated better adherence to these guidelines when preprinted handover proformas are used.
All surgical handover sessions were attended for a one-week period, and copies of handover sheets were taken. These were analyzed against RCS guidelines on the essential dataset for safe handover practice. A standardized handover sheet, developed in accordance with these guidelines and designed to encourage impartation of this minimum dataset, was then circulated among members of the surgical department and made readily available on wards. After a 6-week period, a postintervention audit was conducted using the same methods.
Striking differences were seen in the quality of information handed over preintervention and postintervention. The documentation of patient location increased significantly (56%–87%, P < 0.0001; 95% CI, 0.460–0.151), as did the documentation of important outstanding clinical tasks (45%–89%, P = 0.004; 95% CI, 0.439–0.089). Documentation of blood results increased (P < 0.0001; 95% CI, 0.523–0.226), and the proportion of patients for whom the occurrence of a senior review was documented increased from 28% (18) to 85% (45) (P < 0.0001; 95% CI, 0.717–0.419)
The use of a structured, computer-generated handover proforma significantly improved compliance with RCS guidelines within the surgical department of our hospital, and we recommend its continued use among on-call surgical teams.