Five years have now passed since the Atrainability team helped a neurosurgery unit in the North East of England overcome a string of major wrong side errors.
Prior to our training and coaching intervention their had been a rate of 1 in 300 wrong side errors. The surgical Lead had instituted a 'knife' check - a check that everything was as it should be pre-knife to skin - but then another error occurred.
Atrainability trained almost all the team members in how to avoid and trap errors and particularly how to assert the need to brief the team and check all appropriate items, including of course surgical site. One or two senior team members were unable to attend but those who did were trained in dealing with colleagues who were not keen on such non-technical matters, politely but firmly.
This was all before the WHO checklist had been mandated.
The result is now five years without another incident. Time between error is the measure and is statistically valid.
It is a sad fact that many organisations contain 'difficult' people who feel their skills are being questioned. Not everyone is open to comments about their behaviour. It is not an accepted part of the culture in many areas of healthcare. But if the team stand united and firm, challenging individuals can be handled without any unpleasantness.
Although not part of an academic randomised control trial, these results are notable and a splendid testament to what can be achieved in the name of patient safety.
As the Surgical Lead said - "The error you have to prevent is 2 years from now, out of hours, when you are on holiday and a locum surgeon you will never meet is operating at night with a junior anaesthetist and newly appointed scrub nurse."
For those still sceptical, consider the cost of training against the cost of compensation and litigation. It is an investment well worth considering.