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Standardising wristbands improves patient safety

Standardising wristbands
Reference number
0507
Central Alert System (CAS) reference
No 24
Issue date03 July 2007
Action date (if applicable) (date field)18 July 2009
DH Gateway reference
8115
TypeAlert

This Safer Practice Notice alerts NHS organisations in England and Wales to standardise wristbands. It applies to hospital inpatients in general acute and community settings.

 

Wristbands are used to identify hospital inpatients. Between February 2006 to January 2007, the National Reporting and Learning Service (NRLS) received 24,382 reports of patients receiving the wrong care.

 

It is estimated that more than 2,900 of these related to wristbands and their use.  Standardising the design of patient wristbands, the information on them, and the processes used to produce and check them, will improve patient safety.

 

All NHS organisations in England and Wales that use patient wristbands should:

 

  • Only use patient wristbands that meet the NRLS’s design requirements. 
  • Only include the core patient identifiers on wristbands.
  • Develop clear and consistent processes for producing, applying and checking patient wristbands.
  • Only use a certain colours for wristbands and text. 
  • Generate and print all patient wristbands from the hospital demographic system at the patient’s bedside, wherever possible.


In June 2009 this notice was updated regarding label pre-printing:

  • Printing several labels with patient details at one time, so they can be used as required for the patient's care, is unsafe.  
  • Although the deadline for actions has passed, this guidance remains best practice. It should be followed to prevent future patient safety incidents.
Standardising hospital wristbands- Safer Practice Notice
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