How to Use SBAR for a Handover in Health and Social Care How to Use SBAR for a Handover in Health and Social Care

How to Use SBAR for a Handover in Health and Social Care


Care Learning

3 mins READ

SBAR stands for Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation. It’s a communication tool used in health and social care to provide a clear, concise, and structured way of sharing information. This guide will explain each section in detail to help you understand and implement SBAR effectively.


What is Situation?

The Situation part of SBAR focuses on the current problem or reason for communication. It answers the question, “What is happening right now?”

How to Use the Situation Component

  1. Introduction: Start by introducing yourself and stating your role. This clarifies the context for why you are communicating.
  2. Current Situation: Briefly outline the main issue. For example, if you are reporting a patient’s condition, mention vital signs or specific symptoms.
  3. Be Specific: Provide specific information to avoid misunderstandings. If you are reporting a patient’s blood pressure, state the exact figure rather than saying it’s high or low.

“Hello, this is Jane Doe, a nurse on Ward 5. I am concerned about Mr. Smith, who is experiencing chest pain.”


What is Background?

The Background part provides context that is crucial to understanding the Situation. It includes medical history, current medications, and other relevant information.

How to Use the Background Component

  1. Medical History: Summarise the patient’s medical history. Focus on information that relates to the current situation.
  2. Current Medications: Mention any medications the patient is currently taking. Include dosages if relevant.
  3. Recent Changes: Highlight any recent changes in the patient’s condition or treatment. This could include recent surgeries, new symptoms, or treatment plans.

“Mr. Smith has a history of hypertension and diabetes. He was admitted two days ago for chest pain and has been on aspirin and metformin. His pain started again this morning and has not improved with medication.”


What is Assessment?

Assessment involves giving your professional evaluation of the situation. It allows you to share your observations and clinical judgement.

How to Use the Assessment Component

  1. Current Condition: Describe the current condition of the patient or the situation. Use objective data whenever possible.
  2. Your Interpretation: Provide your clinical judgement based on your observations. This can include what you think is the likely cause of the problem or potential complications.

“Mr. Smith’s chest pain is persistent and has not been relieved by medication. I checked his vitals, and his blood pressure is 180/100. I believe this could be a sign of a more serious cardiac issue.”


What is Recommendation?

Recommendation focuses on what needs to happen next. It’s where you suggest the next steps or request further action.

How to Use the Recommendation Component

  1. Clear Action: Clearly state what you believe should be done next. This could include recommending tests, treatments, or a consultation with another healthcare professional.
  2. Urgency: Specify the urgency of the recommendation. If immediate action is needed, make that clear.
  3. Request Confirmation: Ask the person you are communicating with to confirm that they understand your recommendation.

“I recommend that Mr. Smith gets an ECG immediately. Can you arrange for a cardiologist to see him as soon as possible?”

Putting it All Together

Example of a Complete SBAR Handover

“Hello, this is Jane Doe, a nurse on Ward 5. I am calling about Mr. Smith, who is experiencing chest pain right now. He has a history of hypertension and diabetes, was admitted two days ago for chest pain, and has been on aspirin and metformin. His pain returned this morning, and it’s not improving with medication. His blood pressure is currently 180/100. I believe this could indicate a more serious cardiac issue. I recommend we do an ECG immediately and get a cardiologist to see him as soon as possible. Can you confirm this plan?”

Benefits of Using SBAR

Improves Communication

SBAR helps in organising information logically, making it easier to understand. This reduces the chances of miscommunication.

Enhances Patient Safety

By providing clear and concise information, SBAR helps healthcare providers make better decisions, thus enhancing patient safety.

Streamlines Handover Process

SBAR standardises the handover process, making it quicker and more efficient. This is particularly useful in busy healthcare environments.

Tips for Effective SBAR Communication

  1. Practice: Regular use of SBAR will make it second nature. Practice with colleagues to get comfortable.
  2. Keep it Brief: Be concise but include all relevant details. Avoid unnecessary information that may confuse the receiver.
  3. Seek Feedback: After using SBAR, ask for feedback to improve your technique.
  4. Documentation: Document the SBAR handover to ensure that there is a record of what was communicated and decided.


SBAR is an invaluable tool in health and social care settings. It ensures that communication is clear, structured, and effective. By following the SBAR format, you can improve patient safety and streamline the handover process. Remember to practice regularly and seek feedback to refine your technique. Effective communication saves lives, and SBAR can help you achieve that.

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