What is a handover in health and social care

What is a Handover in Health and Social Care?


Care Learning

3 mins READ

In health and social care, effective communication is crucial. One key aspect of this communication is the handover. Handovers ensure that both the continuity and quality of care are maintained. Let’s delve into what a handover entails, why it is important, and how it is conducted.

Definition of a Handover

A handover is the transfer of information, responsibility, and accountability from one caregiver to another. This exchange happens during shift changes, patient transfers, or when care transitions between different healthcare providers or settings.

Importance of a Handover

Continuity of Care

Handovers ensure that there is no break in the care provided. By transferring crucial information, the incoming staff can understand the patient’s condition and needs immediately.

Patient Safety

Proper handovers reduce the risk of errors. They ensure that important details about the patient’s care, medication, and progress are communicated accurately.

Legal and Professional Accountability

Handovers enhance accountability. They make it clear which staff were responsible for a patient at any given time. This clarity is important for legal and professional reasons.

Components of a Handover

Medical Information

This includes details about the patient’s condition, treatment, medications, and recent changes in their health status.

Care Plans

Care plans outline the specific tasks and goals for the patient’s treatment and wellbeing. This might include scheduled tests, dietary restrictions, or physical therapies.

Safety Concerns

These are any issues that might pose a risk to the patient’s safety. For example, allergies, fall risks, or behavioural concerns.

Administrative Details

These details may involve the patient’s room number, bed allocation, and any pending consultations or follow-up appointments.

Types of Handovers

Verbal Handovers

Verbal handovers are face-to-face exchanges of information. They are commonly used at the beginning and end of shifts.

Written Handovers

Written handovers are documented notes about the patient’s condition and care. These can include charts, logs, and care records.

Electronic Handovers

With advancements in technology, electronic handovers are becoming more common. Information is recorded and transmitted via electronic health record (EHR) systems.

Handover Methods


SBAR stands for Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation. This method structures the handover, ensuring that all essential details are covered.


ISBAR adds an “I” for Introduction. This serves to establish the identities of both parties involved in the handover.

Challenges in Handovers


Miscommunication can occur if information is not clearly presented or understood. This is a major risk in verbal handovers when staff are hurried.

Incomplete Information

Sometimes, vital information is left out, leading to gaps in care. This is especially problematic in written handovers where details can be overlooked.


Busy environments can lead to distractions during handovers. This can compromise the thoroughness and clarity of the information shared.

Best Practices for Handovers


Using standardised formats like SBAR helps ensure that all crucial information is conveyed every time.


Regular training ensures that all staff are skilled in effective handover techniques. This helps in maintaining high standards of communication.

Minimise Interruptions

Efforts should be made to conduct handovers in a quiet environment to minimise distractions and interruptions.


Using checklists can help ensure that no important details are missed during the handover.

Role of Technology in Handovers

Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

EHRs centralise patient information, making it easily accessible for handovers. They also provide a permanent record that can be reviewed as needed.

Communication Tools

Various digital communication tools, such as secure messaging systems, can facilitate real-time sharing of information between healthcare providers.


Handovers are an essential aspect of health and social care. They ensure that patient care is continuous, safe, and efficient. By understanding the components, types, and challenges of handovers, healthcare professionals can improve their communication and, ultimately, the quality of care they provide. Adopting best practices and leveraging technology can further enhance the effectiveness of handovers, making them a reliable cornerstone of health and social care services.

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