The concept of using a checklist in surgical and anaesthetic practice was energized by publication of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist in 2008. It was believed that by routinely checking common safety issues, and by better team communication and dynamics, perioperative morbidity and mortality could be improved. The magnitude of improvement demonstrated by the WHO pilot studies was surprising. These initial results have been confirmed by further detailed work demonstrating that surgical checklists, when properly implemented, can make a substantial difference to patient safety. However, introducing surgical checklists is not as straightforward as it seems, and requires leadership, flexibility, and teamwork in a different way to that which is currently practiced. Future work should be aimed at ensuring effective implementation of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist, which will benefit our patients on a global scale.