Evaluation of NEWS2 response thresholds in a retrospective observational study from a UK acute hospital


Use of National Early Warning Score 2 (NEWS2) has been mandated in adults admitted to acute hospitals in England. Urgent clinical review is recommended at NEWS2 ≥5. This policy is recognised as requiring ongoing evaluation. We assessed NEWS2 acquisition, alerting at key thresholds and patient outcomes, to understand how response recommendations would affect clinical resource allocation.


Adult acute hospital in England.


Retrospective observational cohort study.


100 362 consecutive admissions between November 2018 and July 2019.


Death or admission to intensive care unit within 24 hours of a score.


NEWS2 were assembled as single scores from consecutive 24-hour time frames, (the first NEWS2 termed ‘Index-NEWS2’), or as all scores from the admission (termed All-NEWS2). Scores were excluded when a patient was in intensive care, in the presence of a decision not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or on day 1 of elective admission.


A mean of 4.5 NEWS2 were acquired per patient per day. The outcome rate following an Index-NEWS2 was 0.22/100 patient-days. The sensitivity of outcome prediction at Index-NEWS2 ≥5=0.46, and number needed to evaluate (NNE)=52. At this threshold, a mean of 37.6 alerts/100 patient-days would be generated, occurring in 12.3% of patients on any single day. Threshold changes to increase sensitivity by 0.1, would result in a twofold increase in alert rate and 1.5-fold increase in NNE. Overall, NEWS2 classification performance was significantly worse on Index-scores than All-scores (c-statistic=0.78 vs 0.85; p<0.001).


The combination of low event-rate, high alert-rate and low sensitivity, in patients for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, means that at current NEWS2 thresholds, resource demand would be sufficient to meaningfully compete with other pathways to clinical evaluation. In analyses that epitomise in-patient screening, NEWS2 performance suggests a need for re-evaluation of current response recommendations in this population.