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Clinical handover on the labour ward: A narrative synthesis of the literature

02 October 2014
Volume 22 · Issue 10


Objective: To assess the extent of current knowledge on clinical handover on the labour ward.

Methods: Electronic database searching was supplemented by manual searching of the reference lists of retrieved articles.

Results: A total of nine studies and articles were identified, reviewed and are presented as a narrative synthesis. Six of these include the use of a mnemonic during handover on labour ward, of which two report a postintervention reduction in serious clinical incidents.

Conclusion: The literature available on clinical handover on labour ward is limited. Further research is needed to develop evidence to guide clinical practice in relation to handover of care on labour ward.

Clinical handover has long been identified as a critical point in patient care. Safety and quality are considered key concepts within the provision of services in modern society. The publication in the USA in 2000 of the report To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System (Kohn et al, 2000) is still regarded as a milestone for raising awareness of quality and patient safety within healthcare. It brought to public attention the paradox that every year millions of patients worldwide suffer adverse outcomes as a result of receiving medical care. Among clinical errors, communication breakdown is widely considered to be a significant contributing factor to poor patient outcomes, with handover being a major risk point. Communication is particularly pertinent within maternity care. In the UK, poor communication within maternity services has been consistently identified in all recent Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths reports (Lewis and Drife, 2004; Lewis, 2007; Cantwell et al, 2011) and the King's Fund report (O'Neill, 2008), as a contributing factor to poor maternal and fetal outcome.

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