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National Patient Safety Agency

Increasing safety for maternity services by using the surgical checklist

25 January 2011

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) has released a Surgical Safety Checklist for Maternity aimed at improving patient safety and reducing harm in maternity care across the NHS.


A recent study* shows the unequivocal benefits of using a checklist during any surgical procedure. Successful implementation of a checklist enhances communication between all members of the surgical team and their patients and can reduce the level of patient safety incidents.


Produced in conjunction with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the Surgical Safety Checklist for Maternity is an adaptation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Surgical Safety Checklist.


Created in response to requests from NHS maternity services, the checklist is for women having a caesarean section or other surgical procedure related to childbirth, for example, the removal of the placenta.
In addition to the checks provided by the surgical checklist, the maternity checklist requires staff to:

  • check that the resuscitaire** has been checked and is in working order and the neonatal team have been called, if required;

  • ensure that the urinary catheter is draining;

  • check that the baby/babies have been identified with ID bands ;

  • check to ensure that cord bloods have been taken, if required.

Dr Suzette Woodward, Director of Patient Safety at the NPSA said: “The Surgical Safety Checklist has been proven to reduce harm and save lives.  The benefits will make a major difference for women in maternity care, in particular those undergoing a caesarean section’.


“With 24.8 per cent of births being by caesarean section***, as well as other procedures that women may have to go through related to childbirth, this checklist will improve the safety of the care provided across the NHS.”


Dr Tony Falconer, President of RCOG, said: “Recent research shows that the vast majority of caesarean-sections are undertaken because they are clinically indicated or in times of emergency. 


“Caesarean sections are a fairly common procedure, however, they are a major operation and we must ensure that these are conducted in a methodical manner so that complications are reduced and the mother has a speedy recovery.  Something as simple as a checklist will help to ensure that the maternity team has a ready reference tool even before surgery begins, as exemplified by the WHO’s patient safety programme.”


A copy of the Surgical Safety Checklist for Maternity is available from the NPSA website at: http://www.nrls.npsa.nhs.uk/resources/type/guidance/?entryid45=83972



Notes to editors


1. Media enquiries to the NPSA Press Office:
020 7927 9362/ press.office@npsa.nhs.uk

Out of hours – 0788 411 5956


2. Following the publication of the Arms Length Body Review on 26 July 2010, the NPSA has stressed the importance for all NHS organisations across England and Wales to continue reporting patient safety incidents through the National Reporting and Learning System. This is so that trends in safety incidents can be identified and acted upon as early as possible.  This aspect of our work will continue within the new proposed structure of the NHS Commissioning Board and we will continue to work together in partnership with NHS organisations to make services even safer for patients.  We will continue to monitor the implementation of all patient safety alerts and guidance.


3. * http://www.npsa.nhs.uk/corporate/news/surgical-safety-checklist-saves-lives   


4. ** A trolley with an overhead heater, oxygen, suction, drugs and other infant resuscitation equipment that might be needed at the delivery.


5. *** Statistic taken from HES Online - The caesarean percentage has remained relatively stable at 24.8 per cent (157,356) in 2009-10 compared to 24.6 per cent (154,814) in 2008-09.