Acute foundation trusts lost a third of their operating theatre time to late starts and early finishes by the clinical teams, according to research presented by the Foundation Trust Network (FTN) at the NHS Confederation annual conference.

A benchmarking exercise carried out across 24 trusts, and presented by the FTN at their session Quality and Quantity, showed that for opthamology 19 per cent of theatre time was lost to late starts with 18 per cent to early finishes.

The picture was similar for orthopaedics services where they accounted for 33 per cent.

A summary of the findings said: “The transition to more intensive use of these valuable assets is not east, but can be achieved with determination and a collaborative, iterative approach between theatre managers and clinicians. Similarly, a disciplined approach is required to ensure on-time starts and full use of scheduled theatre time, an area that all participants felt could be improved.”

It said that in quality terms “never events” were still occurring and “many dimensions of quality performance are not consistently tracked and reported across all trusts.”

But it highlighted the World Health Organisation Surgical Safety Checklist as something theatre staff thought had improved quality.    

After the FTN presented their findings to the 24 benchmarked trusts some developed action plans that will be followed up in six months.

Alison Gee, manager of critical care at Chesterfield Royal and Steve Atkinson, a divisional manager at Gateshead Health, talk about innovations they had made at their trusts as a result of the findings.

Mr Atkinson said Gateshead were in process of bar coding every item that is used in an operating theatre to follow cost more closely.