Comparing the monitoring of patients transferred from a critical care unit to hospital wards at after-hours with day transfers: an exploratory, prospective cohort study


  • [Corrections added on 23 April 2014, after first online publication: Title and affiliation of author, Sally D. Wood, has been corrected to read ‘Sr Staff Nurse Intensive Care Unit’ and ‘Cardiff University Hospital Trust’ respectively. The unit mentioned in the Methods section of the abstract was published incorrectly and has now been corrected to read ‘Critical Care Unit’.]



To investigate possible factors related to patient monitoring to explain the higher mortality rates associated with after-hours transfers compared with daytime transfers from critical care units to the wards.


International research suggests that patients transferred from critical care units after-hours have a higher mortality rate than transfers during daytime, although the reasons remain unknown.


A prospective exploratory study.


Twenty-nine patients transferred from a UK critical care unit to a ward within the same hospital after-hours for 10 weeks beginning April 2009 were compared with 29 transfers during daytime hours matched on potentially confounding characteristics. UK Critical Care Unit transfer guidelines have remained unchanged since data collection. Outcomes were as follows: (i) frequency of nursing observations; (ii) time periods from transfer to first medical review; (iii) time period from transfer to first clinical observations; (iv) frequency of transfer to an inappropriate ward; (v) delayed transfers from Critical Care Unit to ward.


Using Wilcoxon's Rank test (two tail) to compare paired data from the matched groups, observations were recorded significantly less frequently within the first 12 hours for after-hours transfers. Time from transfer to first clinical observations was significantly longer for after-hour transfer patients. The delay from when the patient was ready for ward care and actual transfer was also longer for the after-hours transfer group.


Surveillance differences, including time to the first set of observations and frequency of observations in the first 12 hours, are potential factors that may explain the differential mortality associated with after-hours transfers.