HSE Launches Policy and Procedure for Safe Surgery

HSE Press Release:

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Today (Thursday, 15th September) the HSE launched the revised National Policy and Procedure for Safe Surgery. The policy endorses the principles of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Surgical Safety Check 2008 and the HSE Patient Safety Strategy 2019 – 2024 to ensure that all patients undergoing surgical procedures do so safely.

The policy provides guidance for safe practice throughout the surgical patient pathway and introduces key safety steps that can be incorporated into the operating theatre. The critical safety steps proposed are intended to support the development of a safety culture for operating departments and teams.

Mr Kenneth Mealy, Joint Lead National Clinical Programme in Surgery, HSE said: “Safe patient care should be central to everything that we do in surgery.  Understanding that surgical error often arises from both system and individual failure, the HSE National Policy and Procedure for Safer Surgery 2022 defines ‘best practice’ at an organisational level in order to support surgical teams in their work. While the original WHO Surgical Safety Checklist forms the basis of this policy, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us for the need to periodically update and adapt all healthcare policies to reflect local use and changing circumstances. I urge all peri-operative governance groups to disseminate this updated Safer Surgery Policy to all those working with patients along the surgical pathway.”

The HSE is committed to supporting services to maintain safe practices of care within high risk environments such as surgery, to ensure that the correct procedure is performed on the correct patient and on the correct site on every occasion. Every member of the healthcare team involved in the patient pathway has a role to play in ensuring patient safety.”

The policy and procedure outlines the minimum safety steps to be included in the Safe Surgery Checklist based on best practice and evidence. It applies to all patients undergoing surgery in the Irish hospital setting and all healthcare staff involved in the patient pathway. In line with WHO guidance. The policy now includes 5 stages for safer surgery including briefing and debriefing to accompany sign in, time out and sign out. It can also be adapted for all clinical interventions in clinical areas outside of the operating department.

Dr Michael Dockery Clinical Lead National Clinical Programme for Anaesthesia, HSE said: “This policy is an important update which will further improve the safety of patients undergoing surgery in Ireland and is to be welcomed for that reason.”

Mr Paddy Kenny Joint Clinical Lead for the National Clinical Programme for Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, HSE said: “The programme welcomes and is delighted to support the updated policy on Safe Surgery. This is an important piece of work as patient safety is a key priority for the national clinical programme. The development of a checklist will ensure better communication within the team and better patient outcomes.”

Dr Orla Healy National Clinical Director National Quality Patient Safety Directorate, HSE said: “The National Quality Patient Safety Directorate are very pleased to endorse the launch of this policy.  This policy forms a critical component in supporting the HSE Patient Safety vision that all patients will consistently receive the safest possible care, while recognising the complexity and risks associated with the delivery of that care. This policy provides guidance for safe practice throughout the surgical patient pathway and introduces key safety steps that can be incorporated into the operating theatre. Patient safety can be maximised and incidents minimised. The critical safety steps proposed are intended to support the development of a safety culture for operating departments and teams”.

The Safe Surgery Checklist plays a key role in improving communication and teamwork in the operating department. It can also assist in changing the culture in operating departments by emphasising the importance of listening to all team members and valuing their contribution.

This review was coordinated by the National Clinical Programmes for Anaesthesia in collaboration with the National Clinical Programme for Surgery, the National Clinical Programme for Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgery, Stakeholders and Patient representatives.

The revised National Policy and Procedure for Safe Surgery is available to view  at https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/cspd/ncps/anaesthesia/resources/

Last updated on: 15 / 09 / 2022