Using the National Early Warning Score (NEWS) outside acute hospital settings: A qualitative study of staff experiences in the West of England

Emer Brangan, Jonathan Banks, Heather Brant, Anne M Pullyblank, Hein le Roux, Sabi Redwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
331 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: Early warning scores were developed to improve recognition of clinical deterioration in acute hospital settings. In England, the National Early Warning Score (NEWS) is increasingly being recommended at a National level for use outside such settings. In 2015, the West of England Academic Health Science Network supported the roll-out of NEWS across a range of non-acute-hospital healthcare sectors. Research on the use of NEWS outside acute hospitals is limited. The objective of this study was to explore staff experiences of using NEWS in these new settings.

Design: Thematic analysis of qualitative semi-structured interviews with purposefully sampled healthcare staff.

Setting: West of England healthcare settings where NEWS was being used outside acute hospitals - primary care, ambulance, referral management, community and mental health services.

Participants: Twenty-five healthcare staff interviewed from primary care (9), ambulance (3), referral management/acute interface (5), community (4) and mental health services (3); and service commissioning (1).

Results: Participants reported that NEWS could support clinical decision-making around escalation of care, and provide a clear means of communicating clinical acuity between clinicians and across different healthcare organisations. Challenges with implementing NEWS varied - in primary care clinicians had to select patients for NEWS and adopt different methods of clinical assessment, whereas for paramedics it fitted well with usual clinical practice and was used for all patients. In community services and mental health, modifications were ‘needed’ to make the tool relevant to some patient populations.

Conclusions: This study demonstrated that while NEWS can work for staff outside acute hospital settings, the potential for routine clinical practice to accommodate NEWS in such settings varied. A tailored approach to implementation in different settings, incorporating guidance supported by further research on the use of NEWS with specific patient groups in community settings, may be beneficial, and enhance staff confidence in the tool.
Original languageEnglish
Article number022528
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2018


  • Early Warning Score
  • Track and Trigger
  • Acute care
  • Primary Care
  • Qualitative research
  • Community care


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