Operating theatre efficiency

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Operating theatre efficiency is getting increased attention from NHS Trusts and private hospitals looking to reduce spend.

This is because operating theatres are among some of the most expensive resources in a hospital, at almost 9% of total provider costs (1), with one report putting the direct cost of operating theatre time at £14 per minute (2).

But whilst procurement can play a key role in creating cost savings through the purchase of cheaper equipment and consumables for theatres, efficiency objectives clearly require input from theatre staff as well.

This is because Clinical Service Units need to ensure that cost savings do not result in reduced efficiency. Whilst this may sound counter-intuitive, this actually applies in many cases.

Take for example, the purchase of cheaper absorbent floor mats for use in wet procedures. To an untrained eye, it may seem that all floor mats are the same and so the cheapest option makes more sense.

However, cheaper absorbent floor mats may hold less fluid than more expensive mats, meaning that the operating theatre team needs to use more mats during each procedure.

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What’s more, those cheaper mats may not be non-drip, leading to the need to thoroughly mop and dry floors between procedures, which in turn adds costly delays by slowing patient turnaround.

This is particularly important as in one theatre improvement programme, staff reported turnaround as being one of three key problem areas that stopped them delivering the perfect day in theatres (1).

Slips and trips are something else that needs to be considered, as there is no point buying a floor mat that is not anti-slip, as this not only risks staff injuries but also expensive compensation claims.

In fact, these sorts of concerns are already central to The Productive Operating Theatre (TPOT), which is a theatre improvement programme designed by the UK National Health Service. This is because it identifies four main areas of importance, including performance and staff well-being, and value and efficiency.

Due to this growing understanding about how performance and safety can impact on operating theatre efficiency, many NHS trusts and private hospitals are ensuring that they invest in highly absorbent, non-drip, anti-slip floor mats.

What’s more, the same thinking is going into other consumables and equipment used in theatres. Why buy lower quality surgical instruments that cost more in terms of servicing and short life expectancy? Why neglect workplace exposure monitoring in areas where anaesthetics and analgesics are administered, when this could result staff sickness absence and under-performance?

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