Ward rounds key element in patient safety

A "CONCERTED culture change" is needed to improve the quality of ward rounds in order to ensure safe, effective patient care.

This is the message in a joint statement produced by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). Ward rounds in medicine: Principles for best practice calls for ward rounds to be made the cornerstone of patient care and an important focus for clinical staff, managers and hospital executives.

The RCP/RCN state: "Ward rounds have often been a neglected part of the planning and organisation of inpatient care. There remains considerable variation between hospitals in both how and why ward rounds are conducted, and their clinical importance to patients is often underestimated.

"Restoring the ward round is essential for patient safety and for being able to deliver safe, effective patient care. Ward rounds are also critical to developing a rapport and building trust with patients."

Recommendations from the report include having pre-round briefings with consultant-led ward rounds conducted in the morning to facilitate timely completion of tasks during the working day. A nurse should be present at every bedside as part of the ward round and patients, carers and relatives should be provided with a ‘summary sheet’ clearly presenting information discussed in the ward round. Ward-round teams should utilise locally adapted checklists to reduce omissions, improve patient safety and strengthen multidisciplinary communication.