Should Australian hospitals be required to implement the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist which has been shown to reduce post operative deaths and complications?
The UK National Patient Safety Agency has issued an alert requiring all healthcare organisations in England and Wales to implement the checklist (adapted for England and Wales) for every patient undergoing a surgical procedure by 1 February 2010.
Mary Haines, Health Services Research Director of the Sax Institute, reports in her latest bulletin that there is evidence that at least half of the complications associated with surgery are avoidable.
She cites a recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, comparing the rate of complications and death prior to and after the implementation of the WHO’s 19 point surgical safety checklist in 8 hospitals around the world.
Postoperative complication rates fell at all sites after the introduction of the checklist, on average by 36%. The total in-hospital rate of death fell from 1.5% to 0.8%.
Perhaps some Australian hospitals are already implementing the checklist or similar.
But if they’re not, and if there is good evidence that such a relatively simple step could save lives and prevent suffering, then who should be held accountable? Surgeons? Hospital bosses? Bureaucrats? Health funds?
In the meantime, it might be sensible for patients to ask if their surgeon uses the checklist…