Experiences of a National Early Warning Score (NEWS) intervention in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative interview study

Rachel Stocker*, Siân Russell, Jennifer Liddle, Robert O Barker, Adam Remmer, Joanne Gray, Barbara Hanratty, Joy Adamson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the care home sector, with residents accounting for up to half of all deaths in Europe. The response to acute illness in care homes plays a particularly important role in the care of residents during a pandemic. Digital recording of a National Early Warning Score (NEWS), which involves the measurement of physical observations, started in care homes in one area of England in 2016. Implementation of a NEWS intervention (including equipment, training and support) was accelerated early in the pandemic, despite limited evidence for its use in the care home setting. Objectives: To understand how a NEWS intervention has been used in care homes in one area of North-East England during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it has influenced resident care, from the perspective of stakeholders involved in care delivery and commissioning. Methods: A qualitative interview study with care home (n=10) and National Health Service (n=7) staff. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Use of the NEWS intervention in care homes in this area accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stakeholders felt that NEWS, and its associated education and support package, improved the response of care homes and healthcare professionals to deterioration in residents’ health during the pandemic. Healthcare professionals valued the ability to remotely monitor resident observations, which facilitated triage and treatment decisions. Care home staff felt empowered by NEWS, providing a common clinical language to communicate concerns with external services, acting as an adjunct to staff intuition of resident deterioration. Conclusions: The NEWS intervention formed an important part of the care home response to COVID-19 in the study area. Positive staff perceptions now need to be supplemented with data on the impact on resident health and well-being, workload, and service utilisation, during the pandemic and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere045469
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Volume11
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2021

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