Clinicians walking around the hospital

Hospital preparedness tool set to help stave off further backlog

Following on from the news yesterday that researchers from the University of Birmingham had found a way to reduce the chances of the world’s most common postoperative complication, experts from the NIHR Global Research Health Unit on Global Surgery, led by researchers from the same university, have unveiled a tool that scores hospitals on how prepared they are for times of intense demand.

The Surgical Preparedness Index (SPI) was designed by a team of clinicians from more than 30 countries across the world and assesses a hospital’s infrastructure, staff, equipment, and processes for delivering elective surgery to determine its ability to cope with increased strain.

Upon creation of the SPI tool, experts asked nearly 5,000 health professionals from more than 1,600 hospitals in almost 120 countries to evaluate the preparedness of their surgical departments; the team found that the majority of hospitals around the world were inadequately prepared for a period of enhanced stress.

The University of Birmingham’s James Glasbey, who was lead author of the study, said: “Our new tool will help hospitals internationally improve their preparation for external stresses ranging from pandemics to heatwaves, winter pressures and natural disasters.

“We believe it [will] help hospitals to get through their waiting lists more quickly, and prevent further delays for patients. The tool can be completed easily by healthcare workers and managers working in any hospital worldwide – if used regularly, it could protect hospitals and patients against future disruptions.”

Whilst most, if not all, health systems around the world suffered a huge decrease in the number of procedures it could deliver during COVID-19 and the fact that the pandemic was a key indicator of preparedness as a result, it’s not the only reason hospitals are put under pressure.

The UK has already pre-emptively rolled a range of measures to combat the expected winter pressures this year, with some health leaders predicting this Christmas to be the most challenging on record – and whilst not particularly prevalent here, many other countries around the world experience strain due to things like natural disasters and warfare, sometimes causing their health systems to buckle.

It was observed that a 10-point boost in a hospital’s SPI score correlates to them being able to deliver four more surgeries per every 100 patients on the waiting lists, meaning if surgical departments benchmark their own efficiency and preparedness against the SPI, they can head off bottlenecks before they even occur and keep things moving fluidly.

Dr Sarah Puddicombe, Assistant Director for Global Health at NIHR Coordinating Centre, said: "This important study helps pave the way to make surgery significantly safer for thousands of patients around the world.

“It is just one of many exciting findings that are beginning to emerge from NIHR-funded Global Health Research Units, Groups and projects working with partners around the world. We are committed to research that contributes to the health and wealth of the nation and benefits people and communities globally."

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