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Royal College of Physicians

News & Views

Can we make handover better? New survey by RCP

Removing barriers to effective handover from one medical team or consultant to another are the focus of a major new project beginning at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

Since the introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD), hospital trusts have increased the number of shifts to cope with the reduction in junior doctors’ hours to 48 hours per week. This has led to continuity of care suffering as patients are ‘handed over’ again and again to different shifts.

The RCP strongly believes that changing patterns of work must not detract from the ultimate responsibility of doctors to ensure that their patients are safe, diagnosed efficiently and treated effectively. Despite established standards for the structure and content of handover documents, take-up is not universal and the procedure is still managed differently in each hospital.

To understand the problems doctors are facing, the project will start with a survey examining barriers to good practice in effective handover. An email invitation will be sent out to all UK physicians with links to the online survey and other doctors may also register their experiences at


  1. The survey will be live from Thursday, 18 March 2010.
  2. In a study simulating handovers using fictional patient scenarios, junior doctors given verbal handovers forgot 67% of the information after the first handover and 97% by the fifth handover. Groups taking notes retained 87% of important data with 85.5% retained after the fifth handover. Another study showed that a structured handover form increased information retention from 73% (plain paper notes) to 93%.

Published on: March 22, 2010

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