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New System Tightens Up On Patient Safety In Theatres

19th February 2009

Patients in busy hospital theatres in Highland are benefiting from a safety initiative modelled on the checks made by aircrew on take-off.

The Surgical Pause is a final, last minute check-list of questions which ensures that the team of nurses and doctors performing the procedure can be confident that they have reduced the risk of error to the lowest possible level. The key questions asked include; is this the right patient, are we going to operate on the right part of the body, are we doing the right procedure, are we aware of allergies, do we need blood and is it available?

While there have always been safety checks in place in Highland hospitals the Surgical Pause removes the element of variation that existed at different sites or relied on health professionals own training. It is a rigid protocol that must be used for every patient, every time. It has been developed and honed by staff at Raigmore Hospital, Caithness General, Belford Hospital and Lorn and Isles Hospital.

Raigmore Hospital is the busiest in Highland and the Surgical Pause has now been introduced into all theatres.

Raigmore Theatre Manager Gavin Hookway said: "I've been really impressed with the way staff have taken up the challenge of introducing the Surgical Pause in theatres. It might sound simple but of course it takes time to perfect a system and it can't be rolled out until we know that it is working to the patients' advantage. We're now at the stage where it has been introduced into all nine of our main operating theatres and it's being used for every patient, every time. It only takes a minute to do the checks and it gives us confidence that we are increasing the safety of our surgery."

The Surgical Pause is just one of a series of improvements being introduced as part of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme. One of the Programme's key themes is that initiatives are carried forward by front line staff devising, testing and adapting systems in their own teams and rolling them out when they have proof that they work.


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