Reducing perioperative harm

This national programme aims to improve the quality and safety of health care services provided to patients undergoing surgery in hospital. It focuses on preventing adverse events which can harm patients.

A study in 2001 involving 13 New Zealand hospitals found that 12.9 percent of admissions were associated with an adverse event. Almost 60 percent of those adverse events were associated with surgery, and more than 60 percent of these were considered preventable[1]. Such events can be traumatic for the patient and costly for the service provider.

A recent study looking at the potential of using the surgical safety checklist consistently in New Zealand suggests the public health system could save $5.7 million per year. This figure doesn’t take into account the cost to the patient and family in delayed recovery times, extra doctor visits and time off work.

The Health Quality & Safety Commission is working to reduce harmful events by improving communication between health professionals, and between health professionals and patients. Effective teamwork and communication lie at the heart of providing safe surgical care. In the Northern Region, this programme is being run in partnership with First, Do No Harm.

Improvements in this area can be made by consistent and reliable implementation of the three stages of the World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist, as well as interventions to improve culture, teamwork and communication in perioperative practice.

The Health Quality & Safety Commission will also develop evidence-based interventions that are known to improve outcomes for patients but are not necessarily applied consistently across all settings. Working together, we can ensure harm to surgical patients is reduced across the health care sector.

[1] Davis P, Lay-Yee R, Briant R, Ali W, Scott A, Schug S. Adverse events in New Zealand public hospitals II: preventability and clinical context. N Z Med J. 2003 Oct 10;116(1183)