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National Patient Safety Agency urges NHS to adopt WHO surgery checklist

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Theatre nurses must ensure they follow a WHO safety checklist for every patient having surgery in the NHS, according to the government's patient safety watchdog.

The National Patient Safety Agency has today issued a patient safety alert to all healthcare organisations in England and Wales modifying the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist to UK terminology and standards.

It reminds NHS staff of safety practices such as checking the patient’s identity, surgical site and procedure to be carried out before the first incision is made.

The procedure must be in place in all hospitals before February 2010, according to the NPSA.

The WHO checklist follows a one year pilot study in eight countries including the UK that found considerable variation in safe practice and team work in surgery across both the developed and developing world. Implementing the list saw deaths and surgical complications fall by a third.

‘With the annual global volume of surgery now exceeding 234 million, the use of the list could reduce deaths and disabilities by millions,’ said Dr Atul Gawande, lead for the WHO Safe Surgery project. ‘There should be no time wasted in introducing this to help surgical teams do their best work to save lives.’

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