Thousands of hospital deaths could be prevented if doctors and nurses used a standardised bed chart, according to the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).
Across the UK there are more than 100 different types of chart which monitor patients' vital signs.
But there should be just one system used for all staff who check on patients' conditions - whether they are in care homes, hospitals or in ambulances, said the RCP, which has developed a new chart which it is campaigning to have rolled out across all hospitals in the UK.
As many as 6,000 deaths which are attributable to miscalculated deterioration of patients' condition could be prevented once the new system is in place, said the RCP.
The National Early Warning Score (News) would mean that doctors and nurses could easily move from one hospital to the next without having to learn how to read a new chart.
The chart records vital signs such as pulse, temperature and blood pressure, giving them each a score. The healthcare worker then adds up each patient's score which indicates the severity of illness and whether the patient needs more urgent care.
Professor Bryan Williams, chair of the working party which developed the new chart, said: "Many changes in healthcare are incremental but this new National Early Warning Score (News) has the potential to transform patient safety in our hospitals and improve patient outcomes, it is hugely important."
Professor Derek Bell, chair of the News educational subgroup, added: "Developing and adopting a standardised early warning system will be one of the most significant developments in healthcare in the next decade. It will provide a platform for education and training at all levels of staff and will also allow us to undertake better research into patient outcomes and improve patient safety."
Royal College of Nursing director of nursing and service delivery Janet Davies said: "There is nothing nurses and doctors should prioritise more than patient safety, and this system, if implemented across the board, will be a great leap forward for patient care."
The Patients Association welcomed the new chart system, saying it should be implemented "urgently". Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the association, said: "The public will be shocked to learn that the NHS has been operating such an ad hoc system of monitoring deterioration in a patient's condition - with different approaches in each hospital."