To be taken aurally (plus the BBC!)

Surgery is a horribly unnatural thing to do to a body.

To sedate it so it feels no pain, cut into it and rearrange – it’s alien and complicated, and even routine procedures carry a risk.

WMM Bangladesh.  Memorial Christian Hospital.

So if there was a pill you could pop before an operation, proven to keep you safer – wouldn’t you pop it?

Or a drug that helped operating theatre staff cut the risk of surgical complications and mortality by nearly 50% – wouldn’t you politely ask the team to take it?

That’s the power of the Surgical Safety Checklist.  Developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) with leadership from Lifebox chair Professor Atul Gawande, the Checklist is a communications tool that provides a framework for a safe operation, and helps turn a disparate group of nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons into a life-saving team.


Benson and Carter on NBC’s ER – the ultimate surgical team (and they know how to Checklist)

Basic steps – is this the right patient, did we count out all the instruments, is the patient monitored  – keep the team from tripping over their toes during their extraordinarily complicated perioperative mambo.

It has all the impact of a headline-sweeping wonder drug – the problem is, it’s a lot harder to swallow.


But more than 300 million operations take place each year, and surgically-treatable conditions are overtaking communicable diseases in that ugly hit parade of top killers worldwide.  We need to implement systems that will ensure these operations are life-saving, not life-threatening.

NCDs on the rise

2008 WHO World Health Report

It’s estimated that the Surgical Safety Checklist could save nearly half a million patients a year – and protect countless more from debilitating complications and disability as a result of unsafe surgery.

The impact is the same, regardless of a hospital’s economy or geography, and the Checklist has been mandatory in the UK for a few years.  But it’s an equally crucial tool for low-resource setting environments, where lack of resources and training can make surgery even more unsafe.

Lifebox is focused specifically on improving surgical safety in low-resource settings, and we’ve spent the last eight months working with Kibagabaga Hospital in Rwanda, to develop a programme for long-term, sustainable uptake of the Surgical Safety Checklist.

 Last month, the BBC came to visit! 


We’re thrilled to share this powerful article and video with you, about why the Checklist saves lives and how we’re engaging with Rwandan healthcare workers to put it into practice.  We’re proud to introduce you to the phenomenal people who are working so hard to make surgery safer for their patients.

Stay tuned as we go behind the scenes to meet the Kibagabaga theatre team, experience a typical day in the surgical wing – and a baby born by safe caesarean section!

Safe delivery

In the meantime please do check out the BBC piece here – you’ll see how relevant it is to all of us.