News, NHS trust

Digital system for comfort checks shown to “improve quality” of end-of-life care at University Hospitals Sussex

At University Hospitals Sussex a digital system has been developed to record “comfort checks” for patients receiving end-of-life care, with 3,000 patients supported over the course of a 12-month study and results demonstrating “colleagues promptly and appropriately responding to symptoms and providing patients with an individualised, person-centred end-of-life care plans”.

The system, described as “an electronic comfort observations chart and care plan”, replaces the paper chart formerly used to conduct comfort observations as a routine part of end-of-life care, offering a set of regular checks for five symptoms: pain, agitation, breathlessness, nausea, and fluid in the airway.

As well as providing a means for nursing staff to assess and score patients against this comfort checklist, the newly-developed digital system provides automatic prompts for nurses, to ensure that checks are carried out regularly. It also “proactively signals” the need for intervention to provide “better end-of-life care”, and offers guidance on further medication, escalation, and symptom control.

Data from the comfort checks is uploaded to a centralised patient tracking system, “giving specialist palliative care teams insight into the assessments of these patients, identifying trends, and focusing where they may need to intervene”.

Following the successful trial, the digital system remains in use at the trust in support of teams providing end-of-life care.

Steve Bass, lead nurse for Palliative and End-of-Life Care comments: “Dying is the only certainty of life. We have one chance to get it right, so people can die comfortably and with dignity. This system helps us to have oversight of all those people that are being cared for in our hospitals that have been identified as approaching the last hours or days of their life. It enables us to monitor their condition, their symptoms and respond effectively to ensure their comfort as they die.”

In other news from the region, Sussex ICS has launched a new digital discharge planner to provide multidisciplinary teams with “immediate access to health information” regarding patients leaving hospital, offering a single source of truth and enabling all providers and organisations involved in a patient’s care to input updates to their care record.

Also, Royal Sussex County Hospital has launched a new Health Information Point (HIP) pilot with the aim of providing free, confidential health information to patients, carers, hospital staff and volunteers, supported by patient education knowledge specialists.