Patient safety and human factors: RCN programme - handover


Handovers have been identified as a communication 'hotspot'. Misinformation, missing information or untimely information contributes to a significant number of patient safety incidents and workflow problems (British Medical Association 2004). Effective communication is identified as one of the key Principles of Nursing Practice (Royal College of Nursing 2010; Casey and Wallis 2011). 


The goal of this initiative is to develop standards for the structure and content of hospital handover records. The Department of Health (England) has produced three overarching principles:

The data items relating to the guiding principles can be seen here (Royal College of Physicians 2012).


An extensive consultation with the RCN, medical royal colleges, specialist societies, and patients and carers has been undertaken. Work was initiated on the headings to support the handover process and provide a record of what was communicated at handover. Additional, site specific or specialty specific data items will also be developed. 


Core clinical headings for electronic record systems are to be published. The Royal College of Physicians will be conducting a review of data items under these headings during 2012–13. The work is funded by the Department of Health (England).


These resources were last accessed on 28 November 2014. Some of them are in PDF format - see how to access PDF files.

British Medical Association (2004) Safe handover: safe patients. Guidance on clinical handover for clinicians and managers, BMA, London.

Royal College of Nursing (2010) Principles of Nursing Practice, RCN website.

Casey A and Wallis A (2011) Effective communication: Principle of Nursing Practice E (PDF 563KB), Nursing Standard 25(32) 13 April pp.35-37.

Royal College of Physicians (2012) Handover records, RCP website.