Patient safety and the avoidance of inhospital adverse events is a key focus of clinical practice and medical audit. A large of proportion of medical errors affect surgical patients in the peri-operative setting. Safety checklists have been adopted by the medical profession from the aviation industry as a cheap and reliable method of avoiding errors which arise from complex or stressful situations. Current evidence suggests that the use of periooperative checklists has led to a decrease in surgical morbidity and hospital costs.
Aim. To assess the quality of implementation of a modified patient safety checklist in a UK district general hospital.
Methods. An observational tool was designed to assess in real time the peri-operative performance of the surgical safety checklist in patients undergoing general surgical, urological or orthopaedic procedures. Initiation of the checklist, duration of performance and staff participation were audited in real time.
Results. 338 cases were monitored. Nurses were most active in initiating the safety checklist. The checklist was performed successfully in less than a minute in most cases. 11-24% of staff (according to professional group) present in the operating room did not participate in the checklist. Critical safety checks (patient identity and procedure name were performed in all cases across all specialties. Variations were noted in checking other categories, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) prophylaxis or patient warming.
Conclusions. There is still a potential for improving the practice and culture of surgical patient safety activities. Staff training and designation of patient safety leadership roles is needed in increasing compliance and implementation of patient safety mechanism, such as peri-operative checklists. There is significant data to advocate the need to implement patient safety surgical checklists internationally.