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Emergency teams disrupt staff routines but not patient care

Special medical emergency teams (METs) may disrupt hospital routines but do little to adversely affect the treatment of patients they might otherwise be caring for, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

METs are rapid-response teams which manage patients who have unexpected clinical deterioration while in hospital.

The Concord MET Incidents Study, undertaken at Concord Repatriation General Hospital, a 650- bed teaching hospital in Sydney, set out to determine the rate of adverse events and incidents occurring as a result of hospital staff temporarily leaving normal duties to attend MET calls.

The authors found that although there was “significant disruption to normal hospital routines and inconvenience to staff”, disruption happened “without causing major harm to patients”.

There were 332 MET calls in the study period (July to December 2013), a rate of 19 MET calls per 1000 admissions.

Using interviews and questionnaires, the authors found that there were no adverse events recorded. There were 378 recorded incidents – two classified as “minor”, and 376 classified as “minimum”. There were no incidents classified as serious, major or moderate.

Most MET calls lasted less than 30 minutes.

“Staff who spent 60 minutes or longer at the MET call reported significantly more incidents [in regard to their regular patients]“, the authors wrote.

The study had three key findings:

  • “First, no major patient harm occurred”, the authors wrote.
  • “Second, MET calls caused significant disruption to normal hospital routines and inconvenience to staff.
  • “Third, problems that did occur were significantly underreported using normal hospital reporting systems.”

According to the authors, this was the first study to quantify the problems resulting from staff leaving normal duties to attend MET calls, and they recommended further research in other institutions “to quantify these problems in different MET systems”.

They also recommended improving cover for specialist staff on MET calls, and adding another tier to the MET system, where a smaller MET attends middle-tier MET calls, and superfluous staff are released to normal duties as soon as possible.


Incidents resulting from staff leaving normal duties to attend medical emergency team calls, Winston Cheung, Medical Journal of Australia, doi: 10.5694/mja14.00647, published 3 November 2014.

Source: Australian Medical Association