New Treatment for Severe Bleeding after Injury Does Not Show Benefit in Clinical Trial

October 17, 2023

A new technique used to control severe bleeding in injured patients has been found to likely increase the risk of death, according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

An illustration of how the REBOA technique is administered
An illustration of how the REBOA technique is administered

The world’s first clinical trial of Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta (REBOA) found that patients treated with REBOA were more likely to die than those who did not undergo REBOA. REBOA was being considered for greater use in the NHS and the University of Aberdeen research team had been funded to research whether it was beneficial or not.

REBOA can be used to control bleeding from serious injuries – such as those seen in car crash victims or people who have fallen from height – and involves temporarily stopping the blood flow to the lower part of the body until patients can be taken to an operating theatre.

Life-threatening bleeding in the abdomen or chest usually requires an operation to stop it and people with such injuries can sometimes bleed to death in the emergency department before they can reach an operating theatre.

REBOA is a technique whereby a small balloon is introduced through the femoral artery in the groin and then inflated inside the aorta (the body’s main blood vessel). Although first attempted in 1954 the procedure has been refined and developed over the past decade and dedicated REBOA devices are now offered by several companies. The aim is to limit blood loss and redirect the remaining blood to the brain and heart. The technique is intended to “buy time”, alongside other life-saving interventions, until the patient can be taken to an operating theatre and the bleeding can be stopped for good.

The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, took place in 16 major trauma centres in the UK, where 90 adult trauma patients took part, and were randomly selected to receive standard care or standard care and REBOA.

Whilst the clinical trial did not show the anticipated benefits it shows how important it is to ensure that all new treatments being considered for use in the NHS are rigorously tested.”Professor Marion Campbell

Unexpectedly, the trial showed that the use of REBOA increased the risk of death rather than reduce it. In the standard care group 42 percent of patients died within 90 days of their injury compared to 54 percent of participants (12 percent more) in the standard care plus REBOA group.

Jan Jansen, previously a surgeon and honorary senior clinical lecturer at the University of Aberdeen and now Professor of Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA, was the co-chief investigator of the study.

“Bleeding is the most common cause of preventable death after injury,” he said. “It was hoped that REBOA, when used in the emergency department, would reduce the risk of bleeding to death but our study found the opposite. This may be because REBOA is a challenging and complex procedure to perform, especially in patients who are at imminent risk of dying. The trial clearly did not show the expected benefits but is incredibly important because it will prompt clinicians and trauma centres to re-evaluate whether they should be using REBOA.”

Professor Marion Campbell, Professor of Health Services Research at the University of Aberdeen and co-chief investigator, added: “Whilst the clinical trial did not show the anticipated benefits it shows how important it is to ensure that all new treatments being considered for use in the NHS are rigorously tested.”

The study was supported by a £1.25m grant from the National Institute of Health Research Health Technology Assessment board.

Source: University of Aberdeen

Sam Parry Joins Bender UK as the Key Accounts and Clinical Sales Manager

January 26, 2023

After three and a half years of working in healthcare sales for Europe, Sam was keen to return to Bender UK to support the substantial growth within the UK healthcare sector.

Sam Parry, Key Accounts and Clinical Sales Manager, Bender UK

In his new role, Sam will be working closely with valued partners to supply the latest operating room technology to NHS and private hospitals across the UK.

Bender UK is well known for supplying market-leading power systems and operating theatre equipment. Sam has supplied clinical technology for 10 years, and his experience and knowledge will aid sales growth and support new members joining Bender UK.

When asked what his first priorities are in the new role, Sam said, “My aim for the first three months is to ensure I assist with various ongoing healthcare projects, whilst visiting as many new and existing customers as possible. Covid taught us how to communicate using technology but having face-to-face interaction with our customers is key to us understanding their requirements.”

If you have any upcoming healthcare projects or operating theatre requirements, please contact Sam Parry via email: or telephone: +44 1229 480123.

Antarctic Tradies Return to the Operating Theatre

January 16, 2023

A group of Antarctic-bound expeditioners have traded in their hi-vis for hospital scrubs over a fortnight of unique surgical training.

The lay surgical assistant (LSA) course is a world-leading program, designed to upskill tradespeople to support Australia’s Antarctic station doctors in the event of a medical emergency.

Course convenor and specialist anaesthetist Dr Chris Wilde said the program was held twice a year.

“It’s a two-week course with eight participants, where we take expeditioners and train them up to be anaesthetic assistants and surgical assistants,” Dr Wilde said.

“The Australia Antarctic Division operates with just one doctor on each station over winter, and if surgery is required, there are trained assistants from the expedition crew to assist the doctor to give an anaesthetic, conduct surgery, and safely wake up the patient at the end.”

The course culminates with a mock scenario in an operating theatre at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

“We have a whole day of simulation where they use their new skills and we run through anaesthetising and operating, on the ‘patient’ who has appendicitis,” Dr Wilde said.

Casey research station summer Doctor Jan Wallace said the day was a good chance for the team to work together before going south.

“It was a very impressive performance from all the teams. I’m really happy that I’m going down with such a high level of skill with my LSAs this year,” Dr Wallace said.

Back on the tools

Davis research station plumber Shane Bilston is happy to be back in scrubs.

“I’ve done it once before. It’s just such a great opportunity and really helpful if something goes wrong,” Mr Bilston said.

He also sees some interesting comparisons with his regular job.

“The body has a circulating system like water, it has a waste system, and it has a ventilation system, all the things that we work on.”

It’s a new experience for Casey plumber Bill Merrick.

“I was approached for the role and I put my hand up straight away. I knew it was a really good role to be involved with and I’ve loved every minute of it. The last two weeks has been absolutely wonderful,” he said.

The LSA course for nearly 40 years and is a partnership between the Australian Antarctic Division, The University of Tasmania and The Tasmanian Health Service, through the Centre for Remote and Maritime Medicine (CARMM).

A doctor in a hospital gown leans over a dummy patient making a pretend incision
Almost the real thing Photo: Sean McComish AAD

Source: Australian Antarctic Program

Pioneering System Protecting Healthcare Staff from Surgical Smoke Secures Place on NHS Welsh Framework Agreement

July 18, 2022

A smoke evacuation system developed to keep operating theatres smoke free has successfully won a place on the NHS Welsh framework agreement.

Cardiff-based manufacturer Eakin Surgical is one of the suppliers appointed by NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership to the national framework agreement.

The contract award means the company – a distributor for the CIMPAX® C-PURE 750™ Smoke Evacuation System – can help the NHS across Wales to better protect its staff from the dangers of surgical smoke.

CIMPAX® C-PURE 750™ Smoke Evacuation System

Developed by Danish manufacturer CIMPAX ApS, the CIMPAX® C-PURE 750™ Smoke Evacuation System is widely recognised as the gold standard in smoke evacuation.

Since the early 1980s surgical smoke has been known to be a significant chemical and biological hazard and has been shown to be as mutagenic as cigarette smoke. Electrosurgery devices which use high-frequency current to cut and coagulate tissue are the most common at producing surgical smoke plumes. One study found that on average the smoke produced daily was equivalent to the amount produced by 27-30 cigarettes.1

Despite this discovery 40 years ago, the adoption of measures to remove smoke plume from the surgical environment have been slow and inconsistent.

More recently, research has shown that smoke inhaled by theatre staff during procedures can contain over 40 different hazardous chemicals and can lead to complications from viral infections though to respiratory illness with further links to pregnancy complications and cancers.

While other products may only disperse the smoke plume, the CIMPAX® C-PURE 750™ has been developed to deal with the problem and keep surgical teams safe from smoke inhalation.

Its unique 3-port filter offers a variety of flexible options for tubing and accessories to meet clinical needs and sets new precedents for quiet operation. The system can be operated with a Remote Sensor Activator, control panel, or a foot pedal.

Also available on the framework is the CIMPAX® C-VAC TORNADO™ electrosurgical pencil.

Offering the ultimate combination of electrosurgery and removal of hazardous smoke in one instrument, the device has been developed to minimise risk of smoke exposure to the OR team and patient.

The unique triangular design combined with the silicone cover offers the surgeon an ergonomic and safe grip, while a special adaptor ensures the device can be fitted to any smoke evacuation system in the market.

With the NHS committed to reducing its carbon footprint, the eco-friendly material of the device also means it has the added benefit of a smaller environmental footprint.

Jon Blastland, Commercial Director said: “Following a tender for the supply of electrosurgical instrumentation across NHS Wales, we are thrilled to announce that our company has successfully secured a place on the NHS Welsh framework agreement. As the UK distributor for the pioneering CIMPAX Smoke Evacuation System, we are pleased to be able to support the NHS in its goal to better protect its staff from the well-known dangers of surgical smoke. With Eakin Surgical being a Welsh company, we are also particularly delighted to be able to serve the Welsh community and provide revenue into the Welsh economy.”

Eakin Surgical are committed to improving the outcomes of surgery for both patients and theatre staff; and as such, promote the use of ‘best practice’ on tip extraction of surgical smoke for every instance in which it is generated.

For more information, visit:


Self-Retaining Surgical Retractors: Maximum Sustainable Force of Surgical Stays and Stay Hooks in Human Tissue, and the Usual Force Applied to Both During Surgery

July 4, 2022


Surgical Retractor systems are used by surgeons every day and have been considered as useful tools in hospitals for decades. Modern versions consist of a sterile disposable retractor ring and sterile elastic stays, positioned with cam locks for easier one-handed adjustments. New innovations have recently seen a sliding frame and the addition of surgical light guides attached to the frame. Despite the frequency of use, no formal studies and data exist on tension load capabilities or tension impact on human tissue.

This paper identifies the baseline requirement for retracting tissue during surgery, the common range of tension being used, and the upper maximum of load.

Keywords: Surgical retractors; Self-retaining ring retractors; Cadaveric testing; Force load; Patient safety.

Spang A | Volume 3; Issue 1 (2022) | Mapsci-JASR-3(1)-016 | Mini Review

Further Reading

OMFS Win Coveted ASiT Silver Scalpel Award Two Years Running!

April 11, 2022

2022 Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) Silver Scalpel Award Winner British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (BAOMS) Chair Peter Brennan on hearing the announcement said he was “overwhelmed and totally blown away to be awarded this most prestigious accolade”. He broke down in tears in front of over 300 trainees and peers.

Consultant OMFS Manjit Dhillon won the coveted Silver Scalpel Award in 2021, a first for the OMFS Specialty in its 22-year history. It was presented to her in her adopted home town of Aberdeen, where the ASiT 2022 conference was held.  She admitted “it is great that the award has stayed in OMFS a second year running.

Winning the Silver Scalpel Award has been morale-boosting and encouraging for the whole Maxillofacial team and the trainees here in Aberdeen,” she explained. “It has placed a central focus on training within our department for everyone, not just the surgeons, but also for our nursing and allied health professional colleagues. We are all learners and teachers at the same time. The award has boosted the team’s enthusiasm, curiosity and thirst for learning and teaching each other.  

“It was amazing to be a part of the ASiT 2022 Conference in Aberdeen. It made me especially proud to witness the future of surgery being so inclusive, diverse and welcoming. I am very inspired by the courage of the new generation of surgeons, tackling head-on many of the challenges in surgical culture we continue to face. But I believe the future of surgery is brighter than ever.”

On winning the award, Portsmouth Queen Alexandra Hospital-based Consultant OMFS specialising in head and neck oncology, Peter Brennan added: “I was totally overwhelmed to be honest. I did not think I would have a chance as there were some brilliant trainers in different surgical specialities who had got to the final five. I felt humbled to get to the final, let alone win this award. I also thought that OMFS could not win two years running.”

Peter, an elected Council Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) of England, is internationally renowned for his extensive work on human factors and patient safety. He promotes the importance of lowering authority gradients and empowering all team members, which benefits both patient safety and morale. His work has not only improved trainee experience in the operating theatre, but has improved the delivery of the Membership of the RCS exam (MRCS), taken by more than 6,000 doctors every year around the world. Peter champions training and education at every opportunity, and is Editor of seven major textbooks, including Gray’s Surgical Anatomy.

BAOMS President Austen Smith was delighted that the specialty had won the award for a second year: “Winning the ASiT Silver Scalpel award a second year in a row shows how committed as a specialty we are to be the best trainers we can be. We know how important it is to support our trainees throughout their journey to become an excellent surgeon and a brilliant OMFS.

“I am passionate about supporting OMFS trainees and attracting even more surgeons into the specialty. Our junior colleagues hold key roles in hospital OMFS departments across the UK, at an early stage in their careers, and ensuring that we listen, hear concerns, teach and enthuse will make the difference and support them throughout their working lives.”

Video Killed the Medico-Legal War

February 21, 2022

Innovation in Informed Consent Model Could save NHS Millions

London – 11th February, 2022 – An evolution in the way we focus and retain information needs to lead to a significant shake-up in the current informed consent model, today warns the UK’s sole surgical trade union. Modernising the approach could potentially save the Health Service a significant percentage of the billions spent every year in medico-legal claims.

The Confederation of British Surgery (; the only trade union to be recognised under UK law to protect the welfare of surgeons and anaesthetists; reiterates the importance of ensuring patients sufficiently absorb the information they require to make an informed decision prior to undergoing a surgical procedure. It also highlights technological advances that can make this easier on today’s overwhelmed, shorter attention spans.

According to consultant plastic surgeon and CBS President Mark Henley;

“Per the landmark Montgomery ruling in 2015, the medical profession must offer jargon-free explanations of every procedure, along with all its risks and side-effects, whether the likelihood of complications occurring is minimal or not. This process can take some time and repetition, and patients may be at risk of ‘zoning out’ as this is traditionally offered verbally in an unfamiliar environment to them (such as a hospital or clinic), alongside printed material such as leaflets. If patients don’t fully understand, or fail to remember, the risks of the procedure, they could conceivably have given consent for something that could pose dangers to their health.

“The NHS pays out billions annually for clinical negligence claims, of which the vast majority pertain to ‘failure to warn’. Just as we seek to modernise the Health Service in terms of technology, we also should bring our communication approaches into the 21st century.”

This law was established when Nadine Montgomery was awarded £5.25 million following the birth of her baby boy, who was starved of oxygen. Montgomery argued that had she been informed of all the risks of her pregnancy, she would have opted for an elective caesarean. Since this ruling, doctors and surgeons are no longer permitted to omit details of even the smallest risks when obtaining consent.

Instant gratification, such as that offered by social media videos, has clearly impacted our attention span, decreasing it by 33%[1] over recent years, and we absorb less than a fifth of verbal information and under half of all written information,[2] with time-consuming repetition being the only proven way of ensuring this information will sink in[3]. This is of particular concern in hospital and clinic settings where the risks of surgical procedures are offered in the form of verbal or written information.

Dimitris Reissis is a plastic surgery Registrar and member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS). He has created the MySurgery ( app which offers consent information via an interactive experience.  He says;

“Research shows that people are far more likely to absorb information if it is offered in the form of digestible video[4] which, when applied to a medical setting, not only guarantees a higher level of crucial information retention — giving patients the tools they need to make informed decisions about their surgical procedures — but also potentially saves the NHS a percentage of the £8.3billion[5] they currently pay out for clinical negligence claims, of which 86%[6] of the surgical claims pertain to ‘failure to warn’.”

A pilot study of informed video consent in spinal surgery confirmed the potential benefits of using such a method, with 80% of patients reporting that the video consent model ‘helped to address their preoperative concerns’.[7]

Dimitris, who is also President of the Plastic Surgery Trainees Association (PLASTA) adds;

“The way patients are asked to provide consent for their treatment currently is often poorly informed and inefficient. Despite the best efforts of doctors and the medical team, patients can only retain a fraction of verbal and written information provided to them, particularly in the unfamiliar and time-pressured environment of the hospital clinic. Many patients therefore sign their consent form without having fully considered the important information that is appropriate for them in view of their own personal circumstances and personal priorities, even if this is not evident at the time.”

MySurgery one of the latest digital platforms introduced to help patients fully understand and retain information about their treatment and potential risks of their upcoming surgical procedures, and is currently in use at the Royal Free, Chelsea and Westminster, Mid and South Essex and North Central London hospitals, across specialties such as urology and hernia surgeries. Dimitris continues:

“Humans need to be able to repeatedly access information in order to retain it and, in the case of surgical procedures, must be given the opportunity to ask questions and highlight any concerns they may have. These points, along with the fears I have surrounding the impact of patients not fully understanding risks, forms the cornerstone of my work in developing the MySurgery app. We developed MySurgery after spending a lot of time speaking to and learning from patients and doctors about the most effective way to improve patient understanding and retention of information. The result is what informed consent should look like in the 21st century.”

Mark Henley concludes;

“Studies show that video is a superior way to view and retain information, and it is encouraging to learn that some hospitals have already implementing these new technologies as a means of giving patient information in a simplified way, which they can access away from the clinical setting to duly consider and ‘refresh’ their memory. In this age of bite-size information and shortened attention spans, I would urge our profession to consider optimising their approach to informed consent to ensure patients are able to understand what is often very complex, but vital, information and avoid costly medico-legal claims.”


Julie Roberts, a 59-year-old volunteer coordinator and freelance teacher from Fulham recently underwent a carpal tunnel decompression procedure at Chelsea Westminster hospital on 30th September. Julie was given information about the procedure via the MySurgery app. She says:

I have had two carpal tunnel procedures—the first time I was given the risks and information verbally, and the second time, they used the video app. For both surgeries, it was crucial that I understood the operation and the risks involved, which meant that prior to the first, I found myself Googling and watching operations on YouTube, which is less than ideal!

“When I had the most recent procedure, I found the MySurgery app a much better alternative; it gave me the information in a digestible format and avoided the last-minute stress of feeling as though I didn’t have all the information I needed. The way it was presented was clear and concise, making it easy to process. The video model of consent feels more empowering; I felt more confident and in control of the decisions I was making.”







Safer Surgical Checklist – Literature Review

November 7, 2021


Mr Nigel Roberts, MSc, BA (Hons), PGR student,

Theatre Lead, University Hospitals of Derby and Burton


Professor Stephen Wordsworth,

University of Derby

Professor Denis Anthony,

University of Derby

Keywords: Never events, Surgery safety checklist, Airline industry, Barriers, Non-technical skills, Education, Local champions, Wrong site surgery, Retained foreign object post procedure, Wrong implant/prosthesis


A review of the literature on the safer surgical checklist to understand why never events are still occurring in the operating theatres across the National Health Service as well as globally.


Our aim is to understand the barriers that are affecting the effective use and implementation of the surgical safety checklist to understand what further work, research, and education is required to either limit or stop never events from occurring intra-operatively.


Six databases were searched, with a date range of 2009 – 2021.


CINAHL n = 23, Cochrane library n = 2, Embase n – 81, Researchgate n = 60, Scopus n = 53 and additional sources from websites n = 28.

From the initial search, a total of 261 papers were found across six databases. The records were screened, and duplicates removed, this left a total of 53 papers to be assessed for eligibility. This was further reduced by 11 as the literature was either not accessible or relevant to the topic. From other sources such as websites and organisations a further 28 papers were deemed to be appropriate to be included in the study.

The above has been reviewed and presented in a synthesised framework in appendix one, pages 22 – 26.


Papers published in English, peer reviewed, and academic journals restricted to 2009-2021.

# (surgical checklist) AND (patient safety) AND operating theatre OR surgery Or operating room

The search was carried out between 26th July 2021 and the 10th August 2021.

Appendix 2, page 27, details a PRISMA diagram of the search.

Exclusion criteria:

Animals, not written for a theatre environment, the abstract or title was deemed not relevant and not published in English


Examining the literature on the safer surgery checklist, a combination of seventy articles, journals and websites were reviewed. The main themes identified were ones of barriers, culture, training, non-technical skills, local champions, and surgical safety checklist per speciality.


All operating theatres encounter a complex working environment, daily time pressures, high workloads, and have the potential for catastrophic results if errors occur. The checklists that are used across the world today are based upon three principles, simplicity, widespread applicability, and measurability (WHO, 2008).


The main objective of this narrative review is to present a transparent process whereby: –

  • We systematically searched databases to identify studies on the safer surgical checklist
  • We describe the sources of the studies and any impact on patient care
  • We show the re-occurring themes from across twelve years of studies

Research question:

Why are never events still occurring intra-operatively in our operating theatres?


Surgical safety checklist background

Recognition of theatres being a hazardous environment was made by Thomas et al (2000) and De Vires et al (2008) when it was estimated that nearly half of the adverse events that occur, are preventable. The ethos of a checklist is to help identify mistakes before any harm is caused to patients. Helmreich (2000) reported that checklists are commonly used as a method of both error and safety management to reduce risk. Haynes et al (2009) demonstrated that the use of a simple checklist can reduce the risk of morbidity, mortality and surgical site infection associated with surgery. Checklists not only reinforce communication (McConnell et al, 2012) but also improve communication (Gillespie et al, 2010 & Low et al, 2012) amongst all the multidisciplinary team.

In 2009, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched guidelines for safe surgery saves life (WHO, 2009) in six languages (Haynes et al, 2009), across 132 countries (Gillespie et al, 2018) with the aim of preventing unnecessary death and improving outcomes for surgical patients (Viswanath et al, 2017), consequently, nineteen items were compiled into the three steps, for the original WHO safer surgery checklist (SSC). However, later in December 2010 following feedback from the initial implementation, a further two steps were added, these were the team brief and debrief. (Shah, 2011)

In January 2009 (Braham et al, 2014), the National Health Service (NHS) authorised the use of the checklist, and the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) (2008) stated that all NHS trusts must adopt this very simple and effective intervention. From February 2010 the NPSA checklist became a mandatory requirement for all operations in NHS England (NPSA, 2010). It was mandated by the NHS Commissioning Board Special Health Authority (Braham et al, 2014).

Learning from the airline industry

However, checklists are not new, the NHS has adopted this methodology from other sectors that use checklists daily, mainly the airline industry as the operating theatres have similar comparisons of time pressure, high workloads, and a potential for catastrophic errors, as previously stated. The first checklist was introduced into aviation after an accident on the 30th October 1935 when the United States army corps was looking for its next generation of long range bombers. The plane took off, climbed up to 300 feet, staled and crashed. This was due to the pilot forgetting to release a new locking mechanism (Gawande, 2007). Later in the 1970s, aviation introduced its first cockpit resource management (CRM) programme into its training (Helmreich, 2000), initially it was only available to captains. However, a decade later, CRM was extended to all flight crew members and engineers.

Early adoption of the surgical safety checklist

When the checklist was introduced in 2009, the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that the checklist is not intended to be comprehensive, additions and modifications were encouraged (WHO, 2009). This was supported by Harden (2013) as it was suggested that checklists are not one size fits all, they must be customised to fit local practice. Verdassdonk et al (2009) had previously suggested that if the checklist is modified, it may influence its efficiency but, if it is too long or difficult, it may have a negative effect or no effect at all. McConnell et al (2012) found similar findings as they suggested the checklist should remain succinct and concise, otherwise checklist fatigue may occur. Thimbleby (2013) stated that checklists need to be tailored for different procedures. However, Pugel et al (2015), suggested that adopting a checklist to fit local practice may promote ownership and could improve compliance. Raman et al (2016) suggested that checklists need to be tailored to the specific task being performed. The use of stock questions decreases the likelihood of ensuring all theatre personnel are attentive. This was supported by both Raman et al (2016) and Barbanti-Brodano et al (2020) as they suggested specialised checklists reduce adverse events.

Second time out

Song et al (2013) suggested a second time out, a second checklist that is conducted three to four hours after the start of surgery to assess patient safety. The second checklist will promote communication between the surgical, anaesthetic and theatre staff whilst addressing concerns that may impact on prolonged operations. Song et al (2015) later reported that this initiative received positive feedback from all surgeons. A few years later, Schwab (2017) stated that we are now living in a new era, the fourth industrial revolution and Westman et al (2020), suggested that future studies should consider the use of checklists for robotic surgeries and artificial intelligence. Whilst conducting the literature review on the surgical safety checklist, it became apparent that there is still more research needed to understand the potential benefits of a second time out. The current papers were limited from the databases searched, and given that surgeries are complex, and multiple procedures are lasting longer than four hours, this is an area that needs to be explored further to ascertain, what, if anything, the benefits a second time out could have on patient outcomes, both immediately following surgery and thirty days post op.

Barriers to the implementation of the surgical safety checklist

What are the barriers to the SSC, and are we getting any closer to removing them altogether, as Fourcade et al (2012) and Levy et al (2012) earlier research, suggested that despite the awareness of the safer surgical checklist, most hospitals were struggling with effective implementation? Mahajan (2011) early research suggested that some barriers to implementation included anxiety; timing; duplication; relevance and misuse. Hurtado et al (2012) study concluded that knowledge of when to use the checklist was a definitive barrier to effective implementation. Levy et al (2012) American study also concluded that there was a lack of understanding and familiarity of the checklist amongst staff. Later in 2014, Treadwell et al, reported that the perceived barriers fell in to four categories; confusion; pragmatic challenge; access to resources and individual beliefs and attitudes. A year later, in 2015, Treadwell et al, still noted that there were barriers, but in fact identified five main categories; staff perception, workflow; design and content of the checklist; implementation and local context. Gillespie et al (2018) in their Australian study stated that the most significant barriers to using the SSC were workflow, knowledge, contents, and clinical leadership.

To successfully implement the safer surgical checklist Collins et al (2014) suggested that key stakeholders are identified, a change in culture and a shared vision for safety and active communication were all required. This theory was supported as both Bergs et al (2015) and Gillespie et al (2018) suggested that there is evidence identifying both contextual and organisational challenges in relation to checklist adoption.

To lead the change and to implement the SSC Vats et al (2010) suggested that the use of local champions will help in achieving complete adoption of the checklist. This theory was previously supported by Reinertsen et al (2007), Paull et al (2009) and Sewell et al (2013). Mahajan (2011) found that for successful implementation, three essential elements were required. They were developing local champions, organisational leadership, and training. Conley et al (2011) stated that a local champion can lead implementation by educating and supporting team members, as this will also help reduce the perceived barriers as previously mentioned. O’Connor et al (2013) study in Ireland found that by having a designated local champion it helped to remove any barriers and ensured the SSC was used. Oppikofer and Schwappach, (2017) suggested that hospital leadership is essential as acceptance comes from the participation of the users.

Other challenges associated with the use of the SSC whilst undertaking this literature review was one of time. An early study in France by Fourcade et al (2102) concluded the SSC was considered a waste of time as it took staff too long to complete, when their workload is already busy. There was also a perception of no actual added patient benefit. A study in Canada by Urbach et al (2014) found that the SSC added steps, that caused unnecessary delays in an already busy operating theatres schedule. Treadwell et al (2014) similarly reported that staff felt the checklist decreased efficiency in the operating room. In 2016, Tian et al study reported that the WHO checklist was still relevant and important but concluded that adequate time must be provided for checklist completion as this will lead to both ‘buy in’ from staff and ultimately improve patient safety. Barimani et al (2020) concluded that a major barrier to adoption of the SSC was the lack of a streamlined and cohesive approach in implementation.

In the current climate, where the NHS and other health care organisations from around the world, are faced with high demands on an already stretched service, we must consider the staff, and potentially how fatigued they are all feeling following Covid-19, and the pressures placed on NHS trusts by the government to tackle a growing backlog of patients that require not only surgical intervention, but also other NHS services. The current waiting lists are at a fourteen-year high, and there is an estimated 4.7m people waiting for treatment to begin (O’Dowd, 2021).

What is a never event?

The next question to ask is, so why are never events still occurring, if the SSC is in daily use? The literature would suggest that there are still six areas that require further research, education, and training. NHS England (2021) defines a never events as:

Serious incidents that are entirely preventable because guidance of safety recommendations providing strong systematic barriers are available at a national level and should have been implemented by all healthcare providers

Healthcare is complex and hence riddled with the potential for errors due to human factors (IOM, 2001). Surgery is one example of where clinicians are faced with high levels of uncertainty in their daily work, which may impact on the quality and safety of care patients receive (Tucker and Spears, 2006).

Slips and lapses are generally the result of fatigue, stress and emotional or sensory distraction (Systems approach, 2012). Over the years, much effort has been made to train surgeons and theatre staff in technical skills, but the aspects of non-technical skills, namely teamwork, leadership, situational awareness, decision making, task management and communication have long been neglected (Oppikofer and Schwappach, 2017). These traits were stated back in 2011 by Panesar et al as they also suggested that the non-technical traits such as better teamwork, and communication in the operating theatres reduces risk, improves staff well-being and mental health, reduces staff turnover, and reduces delays and glitches in the surgical process which is key to a safe working environment.

Speaking up and being encouraged to do so is not easy as Oppikofer and Schwappach (2017) suggested that nurses for example may not speak up to a surgeon if they notice a problem due to fear of being ridiculed for perhaps being incorrect, or the fear of being blamed by a superior. Encouragement of speaking up and creating a climate allowing all members to speak without the risk of being punished is therefore a true act of medical leadership. During surgery, all team members must be empowered to stop the surgery if they sense or discover a breach in patient safety.

After the publication of the first global survey on the use of the SSC by Haynes et al 2009, it was clear that this tool, adopted from the aviation industry would have an increasing impact on patient safety. High Quality Care For All (2008) proposed that a never event policy be introduced for the NHS in England from April 2009. The NPSA co-produced a set of criteria for defining “never events” and agreed a core list of eight “never events”, alongside a policy framework.

Regarding the surgical intra operative never events, only two were defined in 2009, they were wrong site surgery and retained instrument post operation. A new list of never events for 2011/12 increased to twenty-five. This included the other current surgical intra-operative never event, classed as wrong implant/prostheses. Retained instrument post operation was changed to retained foreign object post-operation. (DOH 2011).

At the time of writing this paper there were a total of 223 NHS trusts in England and 157 trusts have operating theatres. (NHS England, facilities data, Q3 2019-20). This equates to 3,282 operating theatres where a never event may occur.

A question to consider is has the NHS created a stigma instead of learning from ones’ mistake? Never events highlight weak areas within an organisation’s safety process and patient safety. Therefore, they are integral for the improvement and development of the NHS system. (Sampson, 2018). By creating a list of never events, not only is the NHS suggesting that other equally harmful events are not as serious as they have not made it onto the list, but it can also attach a stigma to these events and creates a culture of blame as opposed to a culture of learning and openness (MDU, 2016). From April 2016, patient safety was now part of NHS Improvement and for transparency about patient safety incident reporting, from April 2014, the NHS published never event data (NHS England, 2016). Sampson (2018) summed up healthcare mistakes by stating that at any point during patient treatment, a mistake can occur, these often come down to human error, we should learn from our mistakes, but sometimes they are unavoidable, and therefore should be seen as a learning curve as opposed to a disastrous event for the trust. Figure 1 on page ** details the amount of intra operative never events that have occurred between April 2012 and March 2020

Figure 1 – Never event final data, April 2012 – March 2020 (excluding wrong tooth removed)

The three intra-operative never events, wrong site surgery, retained foreign object post procedure and wrong implant/prostheses will be briefly summed up.

Wrong site surgery (WSS)

From April 2012 – February 2021, 942 cases were reported to NHS England. (NB. The total figure excludes wrong tooth removal). World-wide, approximately 2,700 patients are harmed by WSS each year with communication breakdowns reported as the main cause of such errors. (Collins et al, 2014). Wrong site surgery (WSS) is potentially devastating, and it is still a concern in orthopaedic surgery, despite major initiatives to address this issue such as “operate through your initials” campaign by the Canadian Orthopaedic Association (Wright et al 2009 , the “sign your site” initiative by the AAOS (2009), the “SMaX” imitative (NASS, 2001) and the Royal College of surgeons and NPSA guidance (2009).

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) review in 2018, ‘Opening the door to change’ suggested that WSS occurs due to:

  1. Corporate culture and insufficient emphasis on adherence to SOPs.
  2. Task overload and time pressure.
  3. Distractions.
  4. Absence of cross-checking or team co-ordination.
  5. Complacency and over confidence.
  6. Doing checklist as ‘tickbox’.
  7. Changing team e.g., a new surgeon taking over shift or different surgeons from the one taking consent.
  8. Missing patient notes.
  9. Similar sounding first names.

Since February 2021, wrong tooth extraction was no longer considered a never event. (BDA, 2021 and NHS Improvement, 2021) NHS improvement came to this decision due to the systemic barriers to prevent the removal of wrong teeth are considered not to be strong enough to prevent these from occurring e.g., lack of standardisation in types of tooth notation and difficulties with site marking (NHS Improvement, 2021). Is this correct or just a way of reducing reporting? Is wrong tooth removal as harmful or as dangerous as potentially life-threatening events such as maternal death or surgery on the wrong side of the brain? (Sampson, 2018).

Retained foreign object post procedure

Data between 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2020 reveals that 389 claims were settled, with damages paid, for retained foreign objects post-surgery. These were classed as never events. This cost the NHS £12,472,347 (NHS Resolution, March 2021). The most common retained foreign object post procedure was instruments (46%) followed by swabs (44%). From April 2012 – February 2021 a total of 860 incidents were reported to NHS England (NHS England, 2021). Studies by Wang et al (2007), Zejnullahu et al (2017) and Zarenhad et al (2017) all stated that patients may re-present with the following symptoms following a retained foreign object (swab) frequent infections; palpable mass; obstruction; abscess and pain. Zejnullahu et al (2017) study concluded by stating that the key to preventing the incidence of retained surgical bodes is excellent communication with the surgical team, between the surgeons, nurses, and anaesthetists.

A study by Steelman et al (2018) in the USA reported a total of 319 incidents involving retained sponges between 2012-2017. These were most frequently retained in the abdomen or pelvis (50.2%) and the vagina (23.9%). NHS England during the same time reported 341 swabs or similar items. Steelman et al (2018) concluded that the contributing factors which led to retained foreign objects included human factors, leadership, communication, and the environment. Interesting to note that Gawande (2003) stated that in most cases where sponges were left behind, the number of sponges before closing was always declared correct, suggesting that counting alone is not sufficient. In addition, Stawicki et al (2013) suggested that studies have showed that body mass index, intraoperative complications and unexpected events are associated with an increased risk for retained foreign bodies after surgical procedures.

Wrong implant/prosthesis

The data from April 2012 – March 2020 shows that ophthalmic lens was the largest wrong implant (n=166), followed by hip prosthesis (n=93) and then knee prosthesis (n=90). In 2015, NHS England published the National Safety Standards for Invasive Procedures (NATSSIPS). One of the standards relates to prosthesis verification and details the expected checks to be carried by the theatre team, The checks include, type, design, style or material, side, manufacturer, expiry date, sterility, and compatibility of multiple components. It is important to note, regarding both hip and knee arthroplasty, that there are an estimated 80,000 prosthesis and implant combinations that could be used during surgery (HSIB, 2018).


To conclude, Barimani (2020) found no evidence to suggest that any patient harm has occurred by using the SSC. However, for checklists to work, be successful and to reduce harm, non-technical skills such as leadership, basic cognition, situational awareness, operative briefing, and communication all need to be taught and understood by all users. There is still much work needed to address the myth of having the time to perform the checklist, but this can be overcome by having local champions to help reduce the perceived associated barriers of using the safe surgery checklist. Having tailored speciality specific checklists that are reviewed every two years to ensure that are still meeting the needs of both the patient and the end users may also increase staff buy-in. There is still much more research needed to understand if these contributing factors result in patient harm, as well as understanding if a further second time out would be of benefit.






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Appendix one – Synthesised framework on the safer surgical checklist

Why use checklists The operating theatre is reportedly the most common site for adverse events to occur (Leape, 1994) Commonly used as a method to minimise risk (Helmreich, 2000) Surgical procedures pose a considerable risk (Thomas et al, 2000) Checklist based on three principles, simplicity, widespread applicability, and measurability (WHO, 2008) Misuse of checklists are a major contributor to accidents or serious incidents (Dindo & Clavien, 2008) Reduced preventable post-operative complications (Haynes et al, 2009) Reduce the risk of morbidity, mortality, and surgical site infection (Haynes et al, 2009) Tool to prevent errors in surgery (Panesar et al, 2009) This tool would have an increasing impact on patient safety (Haynes et al, 2009) Perceived improvement in communication, teamwork, and respect (Taylor et al, 2010) Operating room staff more aware of issues relating to patient safety (Takala et al, 2011) Challenge and response (Lewis et al, 2011) Increase in teamwork and safety climate (Haynes et al, 2011) Reinforces teamwork and contributes to effective communication (McConnell et al, 2012) Safety tool to improve communication (Gillespie, 2010 & Low et al, 2012) Enhance teamwork and improve handover (Van Kiel, 2012) Improved team dynamics (Hayes, 2012) Reduction in complications, surgical site infections and death (Tanner 2013) Decrease in surgical morbidity and mortality (Pugel et al, 2015) May prevent active and latent failures (Collins et al, 2014) Cognitive aid (O’Connor et al, 2015) Detecting instances of human error and equipment malfunctions (Oak et al, 2015) Help operating room team members remember important details (Pugel et al, 2015) Surgery high source of preventable adverse events (Reid, 2016) Reduce morbidity, mortality and improve teamwork (Tian, 2016) Aim of preventing unnecessary death and improve outcomes (Viswanath et al, 2017) Fatigue related errors (HSIB, 2019)

Why use checklists (Continued) Useful, simple, and cost effective in enhancing communication and patient safety (Westman et al, 2020) Improvement in outcomes for patients (Barimani et al, 2020) No evidence to suggest harm by surgical checklist use (Barimani, 2020) Tool to enhance surgical safety (Barimani et al, 2020)
Barriers Perception that a briefing would slow down progress (Hulbert & Garrett, 2009) WHO checklist caused unnecessary delay (Sewell et al, 2011) WHO checklist takes only about two minutes on average (Taylor et al, 2010) Hierachy, timing, perception of duplication and relevance (Vats et al, 2010) Time constraints during emergencies (Sivathasan et al, 2010 and Van Kiel et al, 2012) Knowledge of when to use (Hurtado et al, 2012) Lack of understanding and familiarity (Levy et al, 2012) Responsibility for the checklist (Clarke et al, 2012) Create unnecessary patient anxiety (Fourcade et al, 2012) Unimportant or a waste of time, too long to complete (Fourcade et al, 2012) Causes delays and cancellations due to no time being available (Hayes, 2012) Requirements for signatures, lack of time and assertiveness of staff (O’Connor et al, 2013) Inconvenience during emergency cases (Treadwell et al, 2014) Creates an unnecessary delay (Urbach et al, 2014) Checklist decreased operating room efficiency (Treadwell et al, 2014) Surgeons’ resistance to changing habits, awkwardness, and hierarchy (Treadwell et al, 2014) Further work is needed to understand staff attitudes and barriers (Tian et al, 2015) Provide time for checklist completion can increase ‘buy in’ (Tian et al, 2016) Adequate time must be provided for checklist completion (Tian et al, 2016) Significant barriers were workflow, limited knowledge, contents, lack of clinical leadership and dissonant attitudes (Gillespie et al, 2018) Resistance to implementation of the safer surgery checklist by some members of the surgical team (Georgiou et al, 2018) Lack of a streamlined and cohesive approach in implementation (Barimani et al, 2020)
Culture Unlikely to be implemented or maintained without senior leadership (Degani & Wiener, 1993) Alter approach to current safety culture and behaviours (Flin & Mitchell, 2008) Primary challenge (Mahajan, 2011) Will require a change in culture (Mahajan, 2011) Safer surgery checklist could promote a shift in them operating room culture (Sewell et al, 2011) Need to consume only minimal resources (Clarke et al, 2012) Evolving cultural awareness (Kelly et al, 2013) Communication between hospital leadership and front-line practitioners must be open, honest, and constructive (Smith et al, 2015) Time to amend the delivery of the safer surgical checklist to enhance compliance (Reed et al, 2016) Healthcare personnel struggle to cope with culture, resource’s and systems (CQC, 2018)
Training Importance of education and training in changing staff perceptions (Sewell et al, 2011) Three essential elements, developing local champions, organisational leadership, and training (Mahajan, 2011) CRM training (Khan et al, 2012) Without proper instruction, it may become a nuisance (Pugel et al, 2015) On-going education programme (Gillespie et al, 2018)
Non-technical skills Leadership for the successful implementation of the safer surgical checklist is key (Conley et al, 2011) Non-technical skills are shown to improve patient outcomes (Joy et al, 2011) Non-technical traits reduce risk (Panesar et al, 2011) Theatre safety can be made more effective by introducing models of non-technical training (Khan et al, 2012) Introduction of the safer surgical checklist will require strong leadership (Clarke et al, 2012) Communication errors are the most common cause of adverse events (Craig et al, 2012) Adverse patient outcomes are frequently due to sub-standard non-technical skills (Patel et al, 2014) Support of hospital leadership is essential (Oppikofer and Schwappach, 2017) Teamwork, leadership, situational awareness, decision making, task management and communication have long been neglected (Oppikofer and Schwappach, 2017) Promoting teamwork, communication and managing workload (Sampson, 2018)
Local Champions Having champions, especially anaesthesia and surgery are likely to influence peers (Reinertsen et al, 2007 & Paull et al, 2009) Important consideration to implementation is having local champions (NPSA, 2010) Local champions can lead implementation (Lingard et al, 2008 & Conley et al, 2011) Without champions to lead the change, the process becomes more difficult (Hulbert & Garrett, 2009) By using local champions, they achieved complete adoption (Vats et al, 2010) Will remove barriers and ensure the surgical safety checklist is used (O’Connor et al, 2013) Enlisting leaders as local champions is a positive strategy (Treadwell et al, 2014)
SSC Per speciality If modified, may influence its efficiency (Verdaasdonk et al, 2009) Adapted checklists to their context (Norton and Rangel, 2010 & Calland et al, 2011 & Mainthia et al, 2012) Should remain succinct and concise (McConnell et al, 2012) Tailored for different procedures (Thimbleby, 2013) Customised to fit local practice (Harden, 2013) Checklist design to improve behaviours (Rydenfalt et al, 2014) Encourage customization (Pugel et al, 2015) Prospectively tailored to the context (Gillespie and Marshall, 2015) Checklists for specialised surgical procedures (Raman et al, 2016) Tailored to the specific task being performed (Raman et al, 2016) Specific checklists may improve safety (Petrou et al, 2016)
Intra Operative Never Events Higher levels of communication and collaboration have a decreased risk of wrong site surgery (Makary et al, 2007) Sign-out is often low because this section is not explicitly linked to a specific event (Vogts et al, 2011) Most clinical errors of wrong site surgery result from the lack of communication (Stahel et al, 2010 & Panesar et al, 2011) Wrong site surgery represented a devastating event for all parties (Panesar et al, 2011) Main pitfall of the completion of the safer surgery checklist seemed to be the sign-out (Babu & Levison, 2012) Communication failures are common (Lingard et al, 2004 & Hu et al, 2012) Intra Operative Never Events (Continued) Creating an environment in which staff are not reprimanded, is vital to providing a safe patient care environment (Collins et al, 2014) Communication breakdowns reported as the main cause (Collins et al, 2014) Creating a culture of blame as opposed to a culture of learning and openness (MDU, 2016) The systems in place to create a safe environment are not impervious to human error (Zejnullahu et al, 2017) Key to preventing incidences is excellent communication (Zejnullahu et al, 2017) Contributing factors to retained foreign objects include human factors, leadership, communication, and the environment (Steelman et al, 2018) Should be seen as a learning curve as opposed to a disastrous event (Sampson, 2018) Wrong site surgery is the most common never event (NHS Improvement, 2021)

Appendix 2 – PRISMA flow diagram – Surgical Checklist

Appendix 2 – PRISMA flow diagram – Surgical Checklist

CPOC and AoMRC Launch Shared Decision Making Animation for Patients

October 25, 2021

The Centre for Perioperative Care a group made up of nine health partners including the Royal Colleges of Anaesthetists, GPs, Surgeons, Nurses and Physicians with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges have launched a Shared Decision Making (SDM) animation for patients. The animation uses an example of ‘Peter’ to illustrate what SDM is, how it should be carried out effectively, what patients should consider and the thread of patient choice that should run through any patients care.

Shared decision making is a process in which clinicians and patients work together to select tests, treatments, management or support packages, based on clinical evidence and the patient’s informed preferences.

Patients who are effectively involved in making decisions about their care have fewer regrets about treatment, better reported communication with their healthcare professionals, improved knowledge of their condition and treatment options, better adherence to the selected treatment and an overall better experience with improved satisfaction.

Dr Ramai Santhirapala, CPOC Shared Decision Making Workstream lead said:

“We are pleased to launch a joint venture between the Centre of Perioperative Care and Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. This animation promotes involving patients in healthcare choices through shared decision making. Whilst the context is perioperative care, the process and lessons are applicable to the wider healthcare remit. We hope you find it useful whether you are a patient or a healthcare professional.  Follow Peter on his journey to decide what’s best for him.”

Lawrence Mudford, Patient Representative for CPOC and cancer survivor:

“The relationship between healthcare team and patient is central to perioperative care. One brings the expertise and knowledge, based on data sets, research and training; the other is an expert of their own values, beliefs and expectations. Between them, goals, options and outcomes can be managed and explored. This is particularly important when weighing up the benefits of an operation or procedure and setting them against the known risks that will be present.

“Stories are powerful learning opportunities to reflect on outcomes of individual stages in a patient journey. But on their own, they are just ‘stories’. The insight comes from understanding the context, recognising the resulting lessons learnt, and then deciding how to embed these experiences to provide a better patient experience for all patients.”

Watch the video here: Peter’s journey: An Example of Shared Decision Making

Find out more on Shared Decision Making:

Prioritise Improvements to Imaging as NHS Recovers from Pandemic, Urges Ombudsman

August 4, 2021

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has written to the Government urging it to prioritise improvements to NHS imaging services as part of the health sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter highlights findings from the Ombudsman’s report that shows recurrent failings in the way X-rays and scans are reported on and followed up across NHS services.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has written to the Government urging it to prioritise improvements to NHS imaging services as part of the health sector's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

PHSO’s casework shows the devastating impact these failings have had on patients and their families. In several cases, signs of cancer in X-rays and scans were not reported, which led to delayed diagnoses and poorer outcomes for the patients. In one case, an 18-month delay in diagnosing pancreatic cancer meant a patient missed out on getting earlier treatment that could have prolonged their life. In another case, a patient was not told that their cancer was terminal until it was too late for them to get their affairs in order and see their son before they died.

Another common failing was inefficient handovers between departments and services. Investigations also found that trusts did not learn from previous errors related to imaging, which meant they repeated the mistakes.

In his report, Ombudsman Rob Behrens stresses that failings related to imaging are found across the NHS, in both primary and secondary care services, and not solely in imaging departments. He calls on the Government to commit to a system-wide programme of improvements for more effective and timely management of X-rays and scans.

Ombudsman Rob Behrens, said:

‘X-ray and scan results are key to diagnosis and treatment for many people. Yet the failings outlined in this report show that without a concerted effort to improve imaging, patient safety continues to be at risk.

‘Now, as the NHS recovers from the devastating impact of the pandemic, we have a vital opportunity to learn from the failings and embed system-wide changes to improve imaging in the health service.

‘The evidence-led recommendations I have set out should be implemented swiftly, with collaboration across government and the health sector to strengthen the NHS’s recovery.’

For many of the 5 million people currently waiting for hospital treatment, imaging will be a crucial part of their care. Effective diagnosis will be an essential first step in tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic, further highlighting the need for rapid action on improvements.

Peter Walsh from the patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents, said:

‘We very much welcome this report, which underlines the urgency of improving radiology services across the board, including recognition, reporting and acting on imaging results.

‘We see in our own work how vital diagnostic services are, and the awful effect on people’s lives when they go wrong. There have now been a raft of reports and recommendations about improving radiology services.

‘This is a major patient safety issue, and we need to see the various recommendations implemented as a matter of urgency.’

Lessons UK Healthcare Systems Can Learn from the Pandemic

June 17, 2021

New report from the Royal College of Anaesthetists

Effective workforce planning and investment, staff wellbeing, and increased critical care capacity remain vital to the recovery of the NHS

The Royal College of Anaesthetists has launched a report identifying 10 lessons the UK healthcare system can learn from the pandemic. The College is calling for the findings to be implemented in order to support the recovery and build back a stronger and more resilient NHS. The College will work with senior stakeholders to promote the application of these lessons across the healthcare sector.  

The risk of new COVID-19 variants coinciding with annual winter pressures and recurring peaks of infection from flu and respiratory diseases threatens to overwhelm healthcare services.  If critical care is once again pushed beyond capacity, this will jeopardise the NHS recovery. Our report outlines how the NHS must be better prepared for potential additional COVID-19 surges, with consideration of supply of PPE, pandemic skills maintenance, and the need for staff to be protected from burnout and given the opportunity to recover. The report also highlights the importance of innovation and new ways of delivering care, including the expansion of perioperative and enhanced care to optimise surgical activity.

Over the next few years, the biggest challenge for the healthcare service will be to tackle the backlog in planned surgery built up prior to and during the pandemic. With data from the College census1 showing at least one consultant vacancy in 90 per cent of all anaesthetic departments, we argue that any recovery plans must be underpinned by an investment in staff and long-term workforce planning.

The RCoA’s 10 lessons learnt from the pandemic:

  1. the wellbeing of NHS staff is paramount
  2. staff shortages must not persist, now is the time to invest in workforce
  3. we need increased critical care capacity across the UK
  4. appropriate and timely supply of PPE is key
  5. perioperative care has a critical role to play in the NHS recovery and beyond
  6. we should maintain pandemic skills
  7. collaboration and information sharing are critical for a successful pandemic response
  8. local decision-making works
  9. the healthcare system must be better prepared for future pandemics
  10. there is huge potential for digital innovations

Professor Ravi Mahajan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said:

“Anaesthetists, alongside other healthcare professionals, have adapted incredibly well during the pandemic to look after the sickest COVID-19 patients. Over half2 of our members said they had acquired new, transferrable skills, and it is now crucial that staff are supported to maintain the knowledge gained so we can build a pool of ‘reservists’ who can quickly step up to support ICUs when needed.

“Alongside the positive lessons, the pandemic has shone a light on the underinvestment in critical care services which has contributed to the suspension of elective activity and a significant increase in waiting lists. While investment in facilities such as protected elective surgical units are part of the solution, without the workforce capacity to staff them we will never be able to make full use of any additional resources.

“Now is the time to invest in increasing training places for anaesthetists, surgeons, nurses, and others as they look towards tackling the extensive backlog. It is also vital that the NHS appreciates and retains the staff currently working in the system and provides them with the best physical and psychological support as they begin their journey to build back the NHS.

“The fortitude, dedication and adaptability of the NHS staff during the pandemic has demonstrated what they and the NHS are capable of when under pressure. There must be a commitment from the UK government to continue the move towards a more innovative and solutions-focused healthcare system. The NHS must not be left to return to business as usual. The government and the NHS must grab this opportunity to embed what has been learnt so far and continue to learn and improve so we can build a truly sustainable health service.”

Dawn Chamberlain, Director of Clinical Improvement, NHS England and NHS Improvement said:

“The way that the NHS has adapted in response to the pandemic has been phenomenal. We have seen changes to the way we work within our teams, across organisational boundaries and how we interact with our patients, carers and citizens. We must learn lessons from the pandemic to ensure that future generations benefit from these changes. I welcome the learning from the Royal College of Anaesthetists report to support the recovery of the NHS.”


  1. RCoA Medical Workforce Census Report 2020
  2. COVID-19 Winter Survey. February 2021

PDF of the report:  Royal College of Anaesthetists – 10 lessons learnt from COVID-19.pdf

Link to the report: 10 lessons learnt from COVID-19

Royal College of Anaesthetists’ President Writes to Secretary of State on Behalf of Anaesthetists in Training

May 21, 2021

The Royal College of Anaesthetists is continuing to work closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, Health Education England and other devolved nation stakeholders to negotiate a solution to ST3 recruitment.

The Royal College of Anaesthetists

College President, Professor Ravi Mahajan, has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, suggesting the following short-and-long term solutions:

  • to divert some of the additional funding allocated to tackling the surgical backlog to create additional Trust grade posts for anaesthetists in training who have been unsuccessful in this year’s recruitment round, so that they can continue to provide much needed anaesthetic cover for surgical procedures
  • to ensure that any workforce experience that anaesthetists in training gain outside of recognised training programmes is appropriately recognised as part of their anaesthetic training. The College is writing to all deaneries and Heads of Schools to ensure that they follow our equivalent training guidance
  • to consider an essential increase in anaesthetic training numbers in light of the fact that, even after the end of this year’s recruitment round, it is likely that a considerable number of anaesthetists in training will have been unsuccessful in securing a place. The current situation offers an excellent opportunity for a one-off increase in Higher Specialty Training recruitment that would provide significant mitigation for the current and future shortfall in consultant numbers after just four years rather than the usual seven-year programme.

Professor Ravi Mahajan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said:

“Anaesthetists in training have worked tirelessly to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in doing so, many have experienced significant disruption to their training. This has been compounded by the disappointing situation where many will have been unsuccessful in their recent applications for higher training posts. I was therefore pleased to see the announcement from Health Education and Improvement Wales that an increase in the number of anaesthetic training posts in that nation is being delivered for August 2021. I hope to see similar decisions being made across the devolved nations and I look forward to working with the Department of Health, Health Education England and the other Statutory Education Bodies to help make this happen.”

As negotiations continue, the College will provide updates to its anaesthetists in training and wider membership, where substantial progress is made.

If anaesthetists in training have further questions about their recruitment, or the introduction of the 2021 Anaesthetics Curriculum, please speak with your College Tutor, Regional Advisor Anaesthesia or Training Programme Director.

Alternatively, the College Training Team can be reached at, or the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Anaesthetists in Training Committee can be reached via

Ysbyty Gwynedd Becomes First Hospital in Wales to Receive Prestigious Royal College of Anaesthetists Award

April 7, 2021

The Anaesthetic department at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor has been recognised for providing the highest quality of care to their patients.

Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA)

The hospital has become the first in Wales to be awarded the prestigious Anaesthesia Clinical Services Accreditation (ACSA) from the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA).

The ACSA accreditation is the RCoA’s peer-reviewed scheme that promotes quality improvement and the highest professional standards of anaesthetic service. To receive accreditation, anaesthetic departments are expected to demonstrate high standards in areas such as patient experience, patient safety and clinical leadership.

The Anaesthetic teamwork across the hospital and provide anaesthesia services for all types of surgery, labour delivery suites, pre-operative assessments, pain services and are in charge of the Intensive Care Unit that looks after the most critically unwell patients in the hospital.

Dr Tony Shambrook, Consultant Anaesthetist and ACSA Lead at Ysbyty Gwynedd, said:

“We are extremely proud and honoured to be the first hospital in Wales to receive ACSA accreditation.

“It has been a long process over two years to meet all 145 standards to achieve this award. A great deal of work has gone on behind the scenes, from investing in new equipment to updating policies and guidelines to ensure we achieved it.

“Our main focus is putting our patients first and ensuring patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. The ACSA process has helped to highlight how we can improve as a department to ensure we are delivering safer patient care and better patient experience.

“I would like to say a special thank you to my colleagues Dr Ian Johnson, Dr Jason Walker and Dr Linda Warnock for their assistance with coordinating this project.”

Dr Abrie Theron, Chair of the Welsh Board, Royal College of Anaesthetists, said:

“I would like to offer my personal congratulations to the entire anaesthetic team at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor for their ACSA accreditation. Receiving this award is a significant achievement, and I am delighted that we have our first Welsh department accredited under the scheme. It is richly deserved and demonstrates their commitment to providing the best possible care for their patients.

“Patient safety is at the heart of what we do as a Medical Royal College. The quality improvement demonstrated during the accreditation process has helped the department manage the immense tasks presented to them by COVID-19 and the resumption of normal services.  

“Ysbyty Gwynedd has worked hard to keep patients as the primary focus and deliver excellent flexibility to match patient’s needs. Many innovative practices are taking place at this hospital.

“As well as meeting the standards, the department demonstrated many areas of excellent advanced practice that have now been highlighted for sharing through the ACSA network.”

Dr Karen Mottart, Consultant Anaesthetist and Ysbyty Gwynedd Medical Director said:

“Achieving this accreditation is a testament to the hard work of the Anaesthetic Department here at Ysbyty Gwynedd.

“This is a huge achievement in a time of challenge and evidence that a District General Hospital can deliver high quality patient care.  

“We are very proud to be the first hospital in Wales to achieve this award and we will continue to work with the RCoA to maintain these standards.”

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