“How to avoid mistakes in surgery” Horizon programme about human factors available on YouTube, or from BBC Active

The information in this post comes from the Clinical Human Factors Group’s newsletter, and is also available on their news pages – How to avoid mistakes in surgery.


Martin Bromiley wrote on his blog about approaching Dr Kevin Fong a couple of years ago ‘with an idea for a BBC scientific programme… about human factors in healthcare’ and that programme was shown on UK television on 21 March 2013.

“It looks at how learning about the human in the system and the system itself can bring about enormous improvements in safety and outcomes that technology and medical science can only aspire to.

Kevin and the Horizon team have produced something inspirational yet scientific, and – just as importantly – it’s by a clinician, for clinicians. It’s written in a way that will appeal to both those in healthcare and the public. It uses a tragic death to highlight human factors that all of us are prone to, and looks at how we can learn from others both in and outside healthcare to make a real difference in the future.”

Martin is on Twitter at @MartinBromiley.

The programme is available on YouTube (embedded above), or available to educational or charitable establishments under licence, from BBC Active, for a fee (~£200).

Further reading
“How to avoid mistakes in surgery”: a summary and commentary (23 March 2013) HCI sense and safety blog, by Ann Blandford (Ann is the principal investigator on the CHI+MED project).

“The programme refers to the need to build a robust, resilient safety system. Who can disagree with this? It advocates an approach of “standardise until you have to improvise”. This is true, but it seems to me that this could miss an important element: standardisation, done badly, reduces the professional expertise and skill of the individual, and it is essential to enhance that expertise if the individual is to be able to improvise effectively. I suspect that clinicians resist checklists precisely because it seems to reduce their professional expertise, when in fact it should be liberating them to develop their expertise at the “edges”, to deal better with the extreme situations. But of course that demands that clinical professional development includes opportunities and challenges to develop that expertise. That is a challenge!”

BBC Horizon & Kevin Fong Explore Human Factors in Healthcare (24 March 2013) resusroom blog, by Andy Buck – which also includes a detailed synopsis of the programme.

“Although titled “How to Avoid Mistakes in Surgery”, which may lead some medical viewers to dismiss it as unrelated to their specialty, the BBC Horizons program last week aired a fascinating episode, hosted by Dr Kevin Fong, a well-known Anaesthetic/ICU Consultant turned TV presenter from England, whose credits include such shows as Extreme A&E.”

Failure and resurrection (11 April 2013) Injectable Orange blog

“First of all, anyone who says they haven’t made a mistake in their professional capacity is most probably: a) lying, b) ignorant, c) lacking insight or d) all of the above (terrifying condition called “terminal insight failure” – no known therapy only palliative measures). It is from our failures that we learn. I wish that when I was a new graduate nurse in Intensive Care, someone had said:

‘You will make mistakes, all that will define you as a health care professional, is how you recover and correct the course of treatment, care or relationships endanger by these mistakes.’ (Injectable Orange, 2013 – new grads you can quote me on that)

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This entry was posted in campaigns and awareness, health / medical, non CHI+MED, patient safety, videos and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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