Objective To determine the use of paediatric early warning systems (PEWS) and rapid response teams (RRTs) in paediatric units in Great Britain.
Design Cross sectional survey.
Setting All hospitals with inpatient paediatric services in Great Britain.
Outcome measures Proportion of units using PEWS, origin of PEWS used, criterion included in PEWS, proportion of units with an RRT and membership of RRT.
Results The response rate was 95% (149/157). 85% of units were using PEWS and 18% had an RRT in place. Tertiary units were more likely than district general hospital to have implemented PEWS, 90% versus 83%, and an RRT, 52% versus 10%. A large number of PEWS were in use, the majority of which were unpublished and unvalidated systems.
Conclusions Despite the inconclusive evidence of effectiveness, the use of PEWS has increased since 2005. The implementation has been inconsistent with large variation in the PEWS used, the activation criteria used, availability of an RRT and the membership of the RRT. There must be a coordinated national evaluation of the implementation, impact and effectiveness of a standardised PEWS programme in the various environments where acutely sick children are managed.
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