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Editor's blog 15th January 2009: Safer surgery straightforward

Not that I want to seem didactic or anything, but you need to go here - http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMsa0810119 - and read it. You can get the checklist here - www.who.int/patientsafety/safesurgery/tools_resources/SSSL_Checklist_finalJun08.pdf

Atul Gawande, author of the phenomenally good Better: a surgeon's notes on performance (www.amazon.co.uk/Better-Surgeons-Performance-Atul-Gawande/dp/1861976577/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232012302&sr=8-1), has been involved with this project.

Its findings are unsurprising. Even The Good Lord (Darzi) was reported to have had a wrong-site surgery incident in his team at Imperial last year - although it should be stressed that he was not involved in the error.

Just a list?
Is it startling that the research has shown that nothing more high-tech than a list can reduce deaths by more than 40% and complications by more than a third? Sadly, not particularly. Data has been slow to creep into the practice of healthcare at the coalface - not in research and academe, but the day-in, day-out, routine, mundane practice.

Just look at handwashing rates - as Gawande does brilliantly in his book. For all the fashionable talk of 'nudging', the basics remain crucial. Teaching, reinforcing, and inspecting the basics should be fundamental. Do we think it is?

RIP McGoohan: Come in Number Six, your time is up
Nothing to do with health policy, really, but news has broken of the death of Patrick McGoohan, the actor behind one of the great TV series of the 1960s, The Prisoner.

It's actually one of the best bits of television ever - not only beautiful-looking, shot in Sir Clough Wiliams-Ellis's Portmeirion, but thoughtful about the relationship between the individual(ist) and society.

And when our ID cards come in the post, will we be looking at them, thinking "I am not a number; I am a free man!"?