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Comment on tonight's Horizon programme: 'How to avoid mistakes in Surgery'

21 Mar 2013

Commenting on tonight’s Horizon programme How to avoid mistakes in Surgery, Ms Clare Marx, Consultant Surgeon and Lead for Patient Safety at the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“Tonight’s Horizon raised some interesting issues, particularly the importance of human factors in safer surgery and the way in which structured systems and processes can improve patient safety.

At the Royal College of Surgeons, patient safety is our primary concern. Our aim is to enable surgeons to put patients at the centre of care and proactively address issues of patient safety. As the programme highlighted, the way the surgical team works together is absolutely crucial and since 2009 we have developed and delivered training courses that take a practical approach to human factors theory to improve the performance of teams. This underpins reliable and safe practice.

The College has led the profession in supporting and putting into practice the World Health Organisation Surgical Safety Checklist. The checklist allows members of the theatre team to raise any concerns and is central to preventing so called ‘never events’ such as wrong site surgery.

As the programme rightly pointed out, it is vital that there are systems of blame-free reporting in hospitals to ensure lessons are learned and mistakes are not repeated. We recently published guidance that advises surgeons on how best deal with problems, raise concerns and support others to do the same. It is our belief that real excellence in surgery comes from managing past failures and future risks well, with teams supporting each other through difficulties and responding to problems in a timely and constructive way.”

Read the RCS guidance on raising concerns and whistleblowing.

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