A quick guide to handovers

02 September 2021

Good handovers are essential to provide good continuous care, maintain patient safety and avoid errors. After every handover, all members of the team should have the same understanding of what has been done and the priorities going forward. 

However, the lack of consistent processes, the absence of best practice guidelines and the limited use of protocols mean that handovers are fraught with risk. Poor handovers create discontinuities in care that can lead to adverse events (and subsequent litigation), such as inaccurate clinical assessment and diagnosis, delays in diagnosis, medication errors, inconsistent or incorrect interpretation of results, etc. 

Things to remember when conducting handovers 

• Begin with a short briefing – “situational awareness” 

• Facilitate a structured team discussion

• Establish and develop contingency plans – “what to do if…”

• Encourage questions from the team – there are no “stupid questions”

• As a minimum, ensure the following is imparted:

- Patient name and age
- Date of admission
- Location (ward and bed)
- Responsible consultant
- Current diagnosis
- Results of significant or pending investigations
- Patient condition
- Urgency/frequency of review required
- Management plan, including “what if...”
- Resuscitation plan (if appropriate)
- Senior contact detail/availability
- Operational issues, eg. availability of intensive care unit beds, patients likely to be transferred
- Outstanding tasks