Investigating whether hourly hospital ward rounds improve quality of patient care

Student nurses with patient

Patients often report a regular visit from a nurse can feel like a lifeline to a person lying in a hospital bed, but researchers from Kingston and St George’s are examining whether hourly ward rounds really do help deliver safe, compassionate, patient-centred care.

Led by Professor Ruth Harris, the study examines whether the ‘intentional rounding’ system, whereby hourly or two hourly ward rounds are introduced to systemise contact between nurses and patients is, in fact, beneficial to the system. Research so far has shown, while the practice is popular, it has little reliable evidence to show an improvement in the quality of care patients receive.

Professor Harris and her team received a grant of almost £450,000 from the National Institute of Health Research. They will survey all NHS trusts in England to find out how many adopted a system of ward rounds, and how these are being implemented.
The research team will then select both an acute and an elderly care ward in three different hospitals to conduct further, in-depth research with staff, patients and those close to them. They will observe how ward rounds are undertaken – whether by one member of staff or several and whether the staff are qualified nurses or healthcare assistants.

They will examine how the rounds fit with other staff commitments, such as caring for individual patients and attending team meetings and training. They will also talk to staff and patients to get their views on whether the rounds improve their experiences.

Professor Harris and the research team expect to find cases where regular checks on patients are important and improve quality of care. As always, some cases are more intense than others and may require more frequent contact. However, they also expect to find in some cases the checks are resource-intensive and do little to improve patient care, confidence or safety.

The team hopes to discover what works well, and in what circumstances, and aims to produce a set of good practice guidelines that can be shared with all healthcare trusts.

Read more about the study.