Post-surgical deaths in Scotland fall by a third

  • Date: 26 April 2019

DEATHS following surgery have been reduced by more than a third in Scotland since the implementation of a safety checklist as part of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme.

A study published in the British Journal of Surgery found a 36.6 per cent reduction in mortality since the World Health Organization (WHO) Surgical Safety Checklist was introduced in Scotland’s hospitals in 2008. The findings are based on an analysis of 6.8 million operations performed between 2000 and 2014, with rates falling to 0.46 deaths per 100 procedures over this period.

The WHO checklist is designed to promote a culture of teamwork and communication in operating theatres, helping to improve surgical care and safety. It was developed a decade ago by a team of experts led by Dr Atul Gawande, professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, and has been widely implemented in healthcare settings around the world.

Scotland’s National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch said: "This is a significant study which highlights the reduction in surgical mortality over the last decade. While there are a number of factors that have contributed to this, it is clear from the research that the introduction of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist in 2008 has played a key role.

"This decline in mortality has been achieved through the hard work of hundreds of people involved in the project across the NHS in Scotland, delivered under the Scottish Patient Safety Programme alongside a number of other surgical safety measures."

Dr Gawande, who is a co-author of the study, commented: "Scotland’s health system is to be congratulated for a multi-year effort that has produced some of the largest population-wide reductions in surgical deaths ever documented."

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