Patients who have stepped down from intensive care tread a precarious clinical course, and the handover of care between clinical teams at this point should be treated as a high risk event. Poor handover can leave patients vulnerable to suboptimal care and preventable harm. Properly structured written discharge summaries have been shown to improve information transfer and quality of care. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published guidelines entitled "Acute illness in adults in hospital: recognising and responding to deterioration," which states that patients transferred from intensive care should have a formal structured handover supported by a written plan, and it provides minimum criteria for what information should be included. A retrospective audit was carried out (n=28) to identify if discharge summaries were compliant with these standards. Discharge summaries consistently lacked essential criteria, including psychosocial needs (29%), nutritional needs (50%), therapy needs (29%), ceilings of care (39%), and communication needs (18%). Less than a third of verbal handovers between the nursing and medical teams were documented. After consultation, a new summary template was developed and embedded into practice. The new design prompted trainees to ensure they completed adequate information in all domains of care. Additional sections were added to improve recording of when, and to whom, clinical handover took place, which led to improved clinical governance. The overall quality of discharge summaries was improved, with increased compliance in 11 out of 13 domains. Feedback from staff about the new discharge summaries was positive. This project is easily transferable, and has the potential to improve patient safety and quality of care.
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