Acute foundation trusts lose a third of their operating theatre time to late starts and early finishes by clinical teams, according to research presented by the Foundation Trust Network.

A benchmarking exercise carried out across 12 foundation trusts, and presented by the network at their conference session on quality and quantity, looked at theatre activity during two weeks last November.

The findings showed theatres were an “underused resource” with on average only 34 hours scheduled for activity per week per theatre - ranging from 26-52 hours.

Overall 66 per cent of the total used theatre hours was active theatre time, with only 47 per cent of it being procedure time. The rest was made up of late starts, early finishes and turnaround. Separate exercises on ophthalmology and orthopaedics yielded similar results.

An audit of 24 foundation trusts showed 19 per cent of theatre time for ophthalmology was lost to late starts and 18 per cent to early finishes. For orthopaedics services, late starts accounted for 18 per cent of lost theatre time and early finishes accounted for 15 per cent.

The network’s report said these areas offered “good opportunities for productivity improvements”.