Use of oxygen cylinders where patients do not have access to medical gas pipeline systems

A National Patient Safety Alert has been issued by the NHS England National Patient Safety Team on the safe use of oxygen cylinders where patients in hospital do not have access to medical gas pipeline systems.

About this alert

During periods of extreme pressure, often exacerbated by a surge in respiratory conditions, the demand for oxygen cylinders, in particular the small cylinders, increases in the NHS. This is due to the need to provide essential oxygen treatment in areas without access to medical gas pipeline systems.

This surge in demand increases the known risks associated with the use of medical gas cylinders, and introduces new risks, across three main areas:

  • patient safety
  • fire safety
  • physical safety.

NHS England has issued providers with a summary of best practice guidance on the ‘Safe use of oxygen cylinders’ to help NHS organisations to prevent these risks. The alert asks providers to review this guidance and ensure a risk assessment is undertaken in all escalation/transient areas where patients are being acutely cared for (either temporarily or permanently) without the routine ability to access medical gas pipeline systems.

About National Patient Safety Alerts

This alert has been issued as a National Patient Safety Alert.

The NHS England and NHS Improvement patient safety team was the first national body to have been accredited to issue National Patient Safety Alerts by the National Patient Safety Alerting Committee (NaPSAC). All National Patient Safety Alerts are required to meet NaPSAC’s thresholds and standards. These thresholds and standards include working with patients, frontline staff and experts to ensure alerts provide clear, effective actions for safety-critical issues.

NaPSAC requires providers to introduce new systems for planning and coordinating the actions required by any National Patient Safety Alert across their organisation, with executive oversight.

Failure to take the actions required under any National Patient Safety Alert may lead to CQC taking regulatory action.

Patient safety alerts are shared rapidly with healthcare providers via the Central Alerting System (CAS).