Ergonomics and Operating Theatre Design 

Operating suite (OS) design and its potential impact on patient safety have  been investigated. A series of small studies a have been undertaken over a two year period, during which the experiences of patients, relatives, surgeons, other clinicians and a range of other healthcare staff have been considered. These have been complimented through workshops with architects, designers and equipment manufacturers. Epidemiological analysis based on two sources of patient safety data, have added further insights into how and where patient safety incidents arise. 

What has emerged is a complicated and often unsatisfactory picture. There is a need for better, evidence based physical design of operating suites but the benefits of enhanced physical design can only be realised with a greatly improved awareness of psychological factors in OS environments and a fuller understanding of the interactions between physical and psychological needs.  Examples include the importance of design that incorporates communication requirements in the OS and the access given to OS by those not actively engaged in the procedure.

Similarly, design that aims to minimise the increasing problem of hospital acquired infection must start by considering the behaviours of staff, patients and relatives, especially during stressful periods. This study has shown that currently, well intentioned design, may be breached through behavioural requirements. Specification of design needs to be ‘upstream’ in Trusts but the knowledge base required may not be available to optimise the procurement. Of equal need is the ability to prioritise facilities for refurbishment. The methods, notably the risk assessments, developed in this study provide an opportunity for further development of tools that could assist in the risk evaluation of existing OS infrastructure.

 Qureshi M, Buckle P and Hanna G (2008) Use of incident reporting to inform theatre design and surgical practice   In: Improving Patient Safety 2008 ‘From Safe Design to Safe Practice’. Eds Hignett S, Norris B, Catchpole K, Hutchinson A and Tapley S. Publ Ergonomics Society, England ISBN 978-0-9554225-2-2   pp191-195