This Safer Practice Notice recommends that all hospital inpatients in acute settings should wear wristbands (also known as identity bands) with accurate details that correctly identify them and match them to their care.
Between November 2003 and July 2005, the National Reporting and Learning Service (NRLS) received 236 reports of patient safety incidents and near misses relating to missing wristbands or wristbands with incorrect information.
In 2003 the NRLS commissioned research on manual checking processes and the use of
technologies in matching patients with their care. This revealed evidence of
failure in the effective use of wristbands. For example, an audit at Guy’s and St Thomas’
Hospital in 2003 identified that 34 per cent of patients were not wearing a wristband.
Other research found that two to three per cent of bedside wristband checks were unsuccessful, most commonly because wristbands were absent.
The NRLS recommends that NHS organisations providing acute services in England and Wales should:
- ensure that all inpatients wear wristbands that identify them and match them to their care. Formally risk-assessed alternatives should be made for patients for whom this is not possible or practical; or
- make other equally effective, formally risk-assessed arrangements.
Wristbands do not remove clinicians’ responsibility for checking patients’ identity. They are an important way of validating identification, particularly when a patient is unable to provide their own details.