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Surgical incidents and their impact on operating theatre staff: qualitative study

Serou, N; Slight, SP; Husband, AK; Forrest, SP; Slight, RD

Surgical incidents and their impact on operating theatre staff: qualitative study Thumbnail


N Serou

SP Slight

AK Husband

RD Slight


Background Surgical incidents can have significant effects on both patients and health professionals, including emotional distress and depression. The aim of this study was to explore the personal and professional impacts of surgical incidents on operating theatre staff. Methods Face-to-face semistructured interviews were conducted with a range of different healthcare professionals working in operating theatres, including surgeons and anaesthetists, operating department practitioners, and theatre nurses, and across different surgical specialties at five different hospitals. All interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using an inductive thematic approach, which involved reading and re-reading the transcripts, assigning preliminary codes, and searching for patterns and themes within the codes, with the aid of NVivo 12 software. These emerging themes were discussed with the wider research team to gain their input. Results Some 45 interviews were conducted, generally lasting between 30 and 75 min. Three overarching themes emerged: personal and professional impact; impact of the investigation process; and positive consequences or impact. Participants recalled experiencing negative emotions following surgical incidents that depended on the severity of the incident, patient outcomes, and the support that staff received. A culture of blame, inadequate support, and lack of a clear and transparent investigative process appeared to worsen impact. Conclusion The study indicated that more support is needed for operating theatre staff involved in surgical incidents. Greater transparency and better information during the investigation of such incidents for staff are still needed.


Serou, N., Slight, S., Husband, A., Forrest, S., & Slight, R. (2021). Surgical incidents and their impact on operating theatre staff: qualitative study. BJS Open, 5(2), Article zraa007.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 1, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 22, 2020
Publication Date 2021-03
Deposit Date Jun 29, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jun 29, 2021
Journal BJS Open
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 2
Article Number zraa007


Published Journal Article (222 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of BJS Society Ltd.<br /> This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact

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