An electronic ‘early warning system’ at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor is alerting nurses and doctors to sudden changes in patients’ conditions and helping save lives.

The system records the patients’ vital signs such as heart and respiratory rates and blood pressure, which are automatically captured and the early warning scores (EWS) are displayed on a large plasma screen at the nurses’ station.

If the patient’s “score” rises it prompts medical staff to intervene; the system will also page rapid response teams when a case becomes serious.

The new system has seen an 80% drop in cardiac arrests and a 40% drop in mortality rates for those patients who were treated in intensive care.

The system has been trialled on two wards at Ysbyty Gwynedd under the supervision of Dr Chris Subbe, consultant physician and a co-author of the study.

Dr Subbe said: “I can have 30 patients on the ward, many of them will have multiple conditions – diabetes, heart failure, asthma and other problems, they’ll be on lots of different medication, so there are lots of things I need to keep an eye on.

“It’s quite easy to overlook the one thing that is starting to change and tell me that the person is getting worse.”

Entering measurements manually can have pitfalls, especially in a high-pressure environment. It is time consuming, relies on people doing it correctly and also decisions then need to be made on whether the patient needs more help. But Dr Subbe said the new system is more streamlined.

“All this is now automated, from the moment the measurement is done, from the nurse putting the blood pressure cuff on or the temperature device in the ear, that measurement is generated and the machine will assist in the process of calling for help,” he said.

Dr Subbe said the early warning system that is already in place is having an impact, but he is confident the electronic version “could take it to the next level”.

“We were the first ones who picked up the idea and put numbers behind it, the first to roll it out at scale and we are the first now to put the technological solution on it to show what the actual impact is for patients,” he added.