By: 9 February 2021
Nationwide survey highlights concerns over patient safety and poor  communication in the perioperative workplace

A survey carried out by the Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP) has highlighted concerns that poor communication in the operating theatre and within the operating team is compromising patient safety.

The anonymous survey of nearly 500 responders asked a series of questions in a bid to find out more about how human factors can affect not only staff wellbeing but also patient safety in the perioperative environment.

Dawn Stott, CEO at the Harrogate based charity explained: “As an organisation we take patient outcomes very seriously. Human factors are key to enabling safer surgery. Resilience, the ability to manage change, teamwork and support are all key to helping healthcare workers get through the pressures ahead. Whilst healthcare workers have adapted remarkably quickly to the changes in practice caused by the pandemic, we understand that they continue to face enormous changes.”

According to the survey, 61 per cent of responders are concerned that patient safety is compromised by
poor communication in the operating theatre or within the operating theatre team. 24 per cent of responders do not feel that instructions they’re given in the operating theatre are clear with 23 per cent saying they do not feel that pre-op team briefs are always adequate. This rises to 56 per cent for post-team briefings.

Dawn added: “It is well known that delivering healthcare can place individuals, teams and organisations under pressure. Staff have to make difficult decisions in dynamic and unpredictable circumstances. What’s more, healthcare professionals are experiencing occupational burnout and fatigue from the increased stress caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Given these circumstances, it is concerning that a third of responders said they don’t feel they’re supported by the operating team when they feel stressed or under pressure”.

There was some positive news though. The vast majority of survey responders agree that the importance of communication is recognised within the perioperative environment with 92 per cent agreeing that communication and team work are viewed by the operating team as being as important as technical proficiency for patient safety. What’s more, 80 per cent feel that open and honest communication between the operating theatre team members is encouraged with 84 per cent of responders feeling able to speak up and raise concerns within the team.

Despite this, it is clear that hierarchy within the operating team remains marked with 57 per cent saying that they don’t feel that everyone is spoken to in the same way, regardless of position/seniority.

Commenting on the survey results, Louise Ashton, marketing lead at AfPP said: “We want to obtain an accurate understanding of the concerns our members and the wider perioperative community may have. Obtaining first-hand knowledge of these helps us to enhance our support to healthcare professionals. Over the next few months AfPP’s focus will continue to be on what individuals and teams are doing to ensure conditions in the workplace always make the safety of patients the primary concern.”

To find out more or to join the association, please visit