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Audit of compliance with WHO surgical safety checklist and building a shared mental model in the operating theatre
  1. James Todd
  1. St George's University, London SW17 0RE, UK
  1. Correspondence to James Todd, St George's University, London SW17 0RE, UK; toddjames{at}


Background The use of the checklist has been shown to reduce patient death and postoperative complications and is mandated for use with all National Health Service (NHS) surgery. The aim was to obtain quantitative and qualitative data on compliance with WHO surgical safety checklist during operations in an NHS hospital.

Method Data collection was by prospective observational audit of 34 operations using WHO checklist and 5 qualitative criteria to establish efficacy of use: (a) Staff stopped tasks to engage; (b) Staff attentive and listening; (c) Audible to all team; (d) Understanding was checked in briefs and questions/feedback asked; (e) All required staff present.

Categorisation: grade 3 (all criteria), grade 2 (three to four of criteria), grade 1 (one to two of criteria). Checklist use was recorded by stage use (eg, Sign In) and component steps.

Results Checklist stages used were Brief (7/8), Sign In (32/34), Time Out (30/34), Sign Out (18/34) and Debrief (2/8). Checklist component steps were completed more fully in major versus minor operations (17.3/28 vs 8.4/28). Mean qualitative grade was greatest in major surgeries (2.2 vs 1.6) and using general anaesthesia (1.8 vs 1.3). 3/34 of operations achieved Grade 3.

Conclusion Sign Out and Debrief compliance was low, as was full compliance with component steps of the WHO checklist, especially during minor operations. A focused checklist specific for minor operations could be introduced to remove unnecessary steps and mitigate against excessive omission. Improved qualitative use of the checklist is required to maximise effectiveness and facilitate a shared mental model.

  • communication
  • effectiveness
  • leadership
  • performance
  • improvement

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  • Contributors JT planned the audit, conducted the audit, authored and submitted the paper.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.