Safe tracheostomy care toolkit released for healthcare staff in response to COVID-19

Patient with tracheostomy

A toolkit for healthcare staff has been published by the National Tracheostomy Safety Project (NTSP) in collaboration with the AHSN Network and the National Patient Safety Improvement Programmes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to support healthcare staff who are looking after patients with tracheostomies.

You can access the toolkit here: Safe tracheostomy care toolkit for healthcare staff.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on the delivery of health and social care in the UK. As a result, many healthcare professionals are being asked to look after patients with needs that are outside their usual area of practice, providing care they have never previously delivered, often in unfamiliar environments.

This includes the care of coronavirus patients with tracheostomies. The increased number of patients requiring relatively prolonged ventilatory support in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) due to COVID-19 has led to increased numbers of patients requiring tracheostomies, which are used to help wean some patients from respiratory support.

Cheryl Crocker, AHSN Network Patient Safety Director, said: “The aim of the toolkit is to ensure that healthcare staff caring for patients with tracheostomies in these challenging circumstances are able to do so safely. We are keen to work with our health and care partners to provide information and advice relating to safe tracheostomy care and using the toolkit and associated resources.”

This tracheostomy safety work and toolkit draws on a two-year study of 2,400 patients with tracheostomies in 20 trusts, led by the National Patient Safety Improvement Programmes’ intensive care consultant Dr Brendan McGrath, national clinical advisor for the NatPatSiPs’ COVID-19 safe tracheostomy care response. The study found a 55% reduction in serious incident severity and a 20% reduction in length of stay in ICUs and in hospital, where three key tracheostomy safety interventions were followed and patients with tracheostomies were placed in cohort wards.

Dr McGrath said: “The toolkit helps front-line healthcare colleagues to provide safe tracheostomy care during COVID-19.”

Three key safety interventions

The toolkit focuses on three key safety interventions for healthcare staff who are looking after patients with tracheostomies:

  1. Standardised tracheostomy daily care bundle – locally agreed at individual organisation level, including local/regional Critical Care Network.
  2. Bedhead signs which must be in place for all patients with a tracheostomy or laryngectomy which include key information about the kind of procedure to support rapid communication in an emergency.
  3. Standardised ‘bedside’ tracheostomy emergency equipment available at all times.

There are resources and training for all of these elements included in the toolkit, along with guidance on cohort wards and staffing and use of tracheostomy passports.

Primarily the toolkit is for hospital staff. However, much of the material is also applicable to primary and community care settings.

Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSCs), hosted by England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks, are working closely with the National Patient Safety Improvement Programmes to support the safe tracheostomy care toolkit and to help healthcare colleagues across acute and non-acute settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PSCs can offer practical help, guidance on training and support to healthcare colleagues who are or who will be caring for patients with tracheostomies and laryngectomies.

Find out more about the Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire Patient Safety Collaborative or contact the team via email

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