Jeremy Laurance: Sometimes, it's the simple things that work best

Share
Related Topics

Nothing better illustrates the urgent need for the surgical checklist, now to be implemented across England and Wales, than the terrifying experience of a woman patient admitted to a central London hospital last August for a gynaecology operation.

Owing to a mix-up that remains unexplained, she found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, which resulted in her wrongly having her gall bladder removed.

The woman, who recovered and has since received the correct treatment for her gynaecological condition, has not been identified. But the hospital has – it was St Mary's, the very hospital (and the only one in Britain) where the checklist was being piloted.

The hospital has apologised for the error and stressed that it occurred in a theatre that was not using the checklist. But the lesson is clear – even the finest hospitals in the world (St Mary's has an international reputation) are capable of making the most basic mistakes.

The beauty of the checklist is that it is simple, virtually cost-free, and likely to save more lives than a whole bunch of "miracle" cures. While doctors may scoff that the questions included (Is this the right patient? Is this the right limb?) are too blindingly obvious to require more bureaucracy, patients will almost certainly be astonished that such rules do not already exist.

But it is important not only for what it is designed to achieve – safer operations – but also for what it signifies – a new focus on the quality of care.

For the past 60 years we have asked only one question of the NHS – whether it is doing enough and why it is not doing more. Now we are starting to ask whether it is doing it right and how we can help it to do it better. Access – that is, waiting lists – is no longer the problem. Quality is the new battle cry. Doctors may dismiss the checklist as tick-box medicine which threatens to turn them into automatons. But it is actually designed to free them to use their skills to treat patients without having to think about tasks that ought to be routine.

The surgical checklist, and those being prepared for other clinical areas, fits with much else that is going on in the NHS – the focus on health outcomes being pioneered by Lord Darzi, the publication of death rates and increased involvement of patients in rating doctors and hospitals. It is a new beginning.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Development Manager - North Kent - OTE £19K

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Recruitment Genius: Recording Engineer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A long established media compan...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Auschwitz death camp survivor Jadwiga Bogucka, 89, holds a picture of herself from 1944  

Holocaust Memorial Day: This isn't the time to mark just another historical event, but to remember humanity at its worst

Jennifer Lipman
John Rentoul outside the Houses of Parliament  

If I were Prime Minister...I would be like a free-market version of Natalie Bennett

John Rentoul
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea