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NHS England and NHS Improvement Safer Tracheostomy Care Programme

This programme was launched in response to COVID-19 to support staff to safely manage the expected rise in tracheostomy patients.


This programme was rolled out in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was expected that 15-20% more tracheostomies would be required. A tracheostomy is an opening created at the front of the neck so a tube can be inserted into the windpipe (trachea) to help the patient breathe. Given the need to support rapid improvements in care, the work has focused on supporting roll out of three of the interventions from the original programme. These are:

  • Having bedhead signs in place for all patients with a tracheostomy/laryngectomy (an opening in the larynx or voice box), including information about the steps to take in an emergency
  • Having emergency tracheostomy equipment available for each patient with a tracheostomy/laryngectomy
  • Use of a daily care record outlining the steps for managing care for these patients

The programme is based on a previous 20-site UK-wide implementation programme. As part of the National Patient Safety Improvement Programme commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement, UCLPartners, along with the other 14 Academic Health Science Networks, have been asked to support delivery of a Safer Tracheostomy Care programme within their regions.

To support delivery of this work within our region, we are engaging with the relevant Critical Care Networks and then appropriate leads from each of our 19 hospitals to a) understand their current practice with regards to the three interventions, and b) provide support where we can where the interventions are not in place.

The first phase is aimed at  creating a baseline of practice and encouraging use of the above hospital-based interventions where they are not already in place. A toolkit was developed alongside the programme which has been incorporated into the National Tracheostomy Safety Programme website.


Alexandra Hellyer, Improvement Advisor