Transfer of the critically ill adult patient

  • David Hunt
    David Hunt MBBS FRCA FFICM MRCEM Dip IMC RCSEd PGCert (Mtn Med) FRGS is a Consultant in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care Medicine at Frimley Park Hospital and Defence Medical Services, Lt Col RAMC, UK. Conflicts of interest: none declared
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      Patient transfer has both resource ramifications and is an important public health issue. With increasing centralization of specialist services and the advent of regional trauma networks, the requirement for patient transfer is ever present. Every year in the UK over 11,000 intensive care patients are transferred and the majority of these transfers are facilitated by a team from the transferring hospital. Transferring a critically ill patient is a process involving inherent risk. It follows that prior preparation around planning for a safe transfer is essential, both in terms of anticipating potential problems, mitigating against them and ensuring clear and timely communication with the accepting hospital and respective specialties responsible for the patient. In the longer term, training of staff is essential in order to reduce instances of harm to patients. Medical transfers must be the subject of further research in order to consolidate best practice and improve our understanding of patient safety during transfer. This article provides an overview of the different types of patient transfer, the associated hazards, human factors around decision making, communication, equipment and organization.


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