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Confidentiality in operating theatres: a survey of practice


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Presented at

Euroanaesthesia 2017





Background: In this era of Information Governance, it is imperative that patient confidentiality be maintained at all times. Besides, respect for patient privacy has remained both an ancient and contemporary professional responsibility of physicians. Despite being clinical-only environments, operating theatre changing rooms have a significant volume of traffic passing through. Staff members shouldn’t have access to confidential information regarding patients that they have no duty of care towards. We undertook a quality improvement project to reduce the incidence of patient identifiable data being left within the theatre environment. Methods: In the first part of this project, staff changing areas were reviewed at 08:30 and 16:30 over 9 days in Jan 2016. We looked to determine whether confidential information (theatre lists, ‘Handover’ documents and referral letters) was left in an unsecured environment. After discussion with staff it was identified that having confidential waste bins in the changing rooms would be the most effective preventative method. These were placed in all changing rooms and staff were informed of their importance. The changing areas were then reviewed 6 months later to identify whether a significant cultural shift had occurred. Results and Discussion: Initially on over 75% of the days, patient identifiable information was discovered within at least one of the changing rooms. Information included trauma lists with names, NHS numbers and patient addresses and theatre lists with planned operations. A detailed referral from a General Practitioner to the Surgical team was also found containing an extensive patient medical history. From each piece of information an average of 3 patients could be identified. Following the change, confidential information was still found in all changing rooms on each of the ‘follow up days’. However this was promptly disposed of appropriately when the cleaning staff arrived in the evening. Conclusion: Despite the accepted importance of maintaining patient confidentiality, theatre changing rooms remain a potential source of breaches. Prominently displayed confidential waste bins and information regarding seriousness of confidentiality breaches should be available for all staff to reduce this incidence. Despite the provision of an appropriate disposal facility for the confidential information, little change in practice was seen. We intend to explore the human factors further to address this problem.


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© Copyright 2020 Morressier GmbH.
All rights reserved.