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Governance of rapid response teams in Australia and New Zealand

Intensive Care Unit, Lyell McEwin Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia


Rapid response systems (RRS) in hospitals in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) have been present for more than 20 years but governance of the efferent limb—the rapid response team (RRT)—has not been previously reported in detail. The objectives of this study were to describe current governance arrangements for RRTs within ANZ and contrast those against expected implementation, using the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care National Standard 9 (S9) as a benchmark. Assessment focused on S9 subclauses 9.1.1 (governance and oversight), 9.1.2 (RRT implementation), 9.2.3 (data collection and dissemination), 9.2.4 (quality improvement), 9.5.2 (call reviews), 9.6.1 and 9.6.2 (basic and advanced life support [ALS] skill set). We identified public and private hospitals across ANZ from government-maintained registers. Those reasonably expected to have an RRT were contacted and invited to participate. Responses were obtained via an online anonymised questionnaire. Three hundred and forty-two hospitals were contacted, of whom 284 (83.0%) responded. Two hundred and thirty-two hospitals submitted data, and the other 52 declined to participate or did not have an RRT. In hospitals with an intensive care unit (ICU), intensivist attendance at RRT calls occurred less often outside office hours (odds ratio, OR, 0.49, 95% confidence interval, CI, 0.32 to 0.75]). Where intensivists were not on the RRT, consultation with them about calls also occurred less often outside office hours (OR 0.39, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.66). Consultation with patients’ admitting specialists occurred more often during office hours versus out of hours RRT calls and in private versus public hospitals. The presence of ICU staff on the RRT decreased the likelihood of admitting specialists being consulted about RRT calls (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.47 to 0.93). Most hospitals maintained databases of RRT calls and regularly audited RRT activity (92% and 90% respectively). However, most (63.7%) did not make that information available beyond their hospital or local network. We concluded that the majority of hospitals in the ANZ region had governance mechanisms for their RRT. However, there was a notable lack of consistency, especially around specialist involvement and audit processes. Although some findings from this study are reassuring, there is still potential for improvement. Further development of guidelines and the establishment of a regional RRS database may assist with achieving this.

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