NHS report targets operating theatre productivity

  • Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Professional News
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Hospitals could carry out over 291,000 more routine operations a year by improving the management of surgical lists, according to new report commissioned by NHS Improvement.

The report - Operating theatres: opportunities to reduce waiting lists - states that data submitted by 92 trusts for 2017 demonstrate variation in theatre productivity between different trusts and different specialties.

The data showed that a third of operating lists started at least 30 minutes late and 38 per cent finished at least 30 minutes early. More than 111,000 finished at least 60 minutes early. Day lists comprising three four-hour sessions were particularly likely to finish early.

Theatre time lost to late starts, early finishes and delays between operations could potentially have allowed up to 291,327 more operations - a 16.8 per cent increase.

According to the report, compiled by Deloitte, this could have facilitated:

  • 30,000 more ear, nose and throat operations
  • 42,000 more general surgery operations
  • 32,000 more gynaecology operations
  • 41,000 more ophthalmology operations
  • 27,000 more oral and maxillofacial surgery operations
  • 19,000 more plastic surgery operations
  • 57,000 more orthopaedic operations
  • 44,000 more urology operations

Responding to the report, Professor Ravi Mahajan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) said: “While the report highlights problems created by late starts and early finishes, the College also recognises the equally, if not more, important problem of late finishes and overbooking of lists. This adds to working pressures, unbudgeted expense, and staff fatigue. We would welcome strategies to prevent over-running, as much as measures to prevent under-running of lists.”

The operating theatre does not exist in a vacuum and bed capacity plays a key part in the efficiency of the operating theatre, Prof Mahajan said. He added that workforce shortages, both in the operating theatre and in post-operative wards, also have an impact.