Understanding physiological stability of hospital patients over the course of admission, using VitalPAC data

The aim of this project is to understand trends and patterns in the vital signs of patients on admission to hospital, with a particular focus on patients who have been admitted in an emergency. We hope that this work will provide insights into the scope for safely reducing patients’ length of stay.


Published: 05/04/2019

Project status: Ongoing

Monitoring patients’ vital signs (such as blood pressure, oxygen levels and pulse) is a fundamental part of clinical care in hospital.  Failure to monitor vital signs, and act when they indicate the patient's condition is deteriorating, has been identified as a safety issue for some time. Early Warning Scores (EWS) are now recommended as part of the recognition and response to patient deterioration, and EWS can identify patients at risk of adverse outcomes, such as cardiac arrest, unanticipated intensive care unit admission or death.

This study will examine trends and variation in vital signs of patients on admission to hospital, with a particular focus on patients who have been admitted in an emergency.  The project builds on the Nuffield Trust’s programme of work on the quality of care of medical patients, and addresses growing national concern about increases in emergency admissions and the care of patients with long lengths of stay in hospital. 

This research will provide insights that will help national policy makers determine the scope to reduce length of stay. The study will also provide useful intelligence for participating organisations by giving them a picture of their patient population.

Using electronically captured vital signs data (via CareFlow Vitals, formerly known as VitalPAC) already collected as part of routine care, analysis will be undertaken to address three research questions:

  1. Has there been a change over time in the burden of disease of patients admitted to hospital in an emergency, as indicated by physiological parameters of patients on the ward?
  2. Do emergency patient admissions at the weekend have a different physiological profile to those admitted on weekdays?
  3. What is the physiological stability over the course of hospital stay of patients who have a length of stay in hospital of more than 5 days?

We are working with the following organisations to access observation data:

  • Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust
  • East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

The analysis phase is expected to take place during summer 2019, and the project is expected to be complete by the end of 2019.

The most recent advisory group terms of reference can be found here