Patient safety practices in European anaesthesiology: Expert evaluation and ranking

Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2023 Feb 1;40(2):113-120. doi: 10.1097/EJA.0000000000001779. Epub 2022 Dec 5.


Background: Patient safety is a key concern of anaesthesiology practice. However, good practices are often not widely shared between departments and hospitals, whether within or between countries.

Objective: We aimed to collect and analyse safety practices and tips from anaesthesiology departments around Europe in order to facilitate successful transfer of safety knowledge.

Design: Review of previously collected safety practices; allocation of numerical scores in order to rank them on 0-5 scales in terms of anticipated impact, and speed, cost, and ease of implementation; free text comment on any possible difficulties or unintended harms which might arise from adopting any of the collected practices.

Setting: Collaborative remote working of expert group.

Participants: Nineteen experts in patient safety in anaesthesiology from nine European countries.

Main outcome measures: Rankings of safety practices for anticipated practice impact, cost, speed, and ease of implementation.

Results: We collected 117 practices. The highest-ranked items for potential beneficial impact were: standardising the layout of drug trolleys (4.82); involving all staff in new safety initiatives in the operating theatre (4.73); ensuring patients' medical records are available at the time of surgery (4.71); running regular simulation training sessions in departments of anaesthesia (4.67); and creating a difficult airway management trolley (4.65). A major theme to emerge from the qualitative analysis of the experts' free text comments was the risk that practices aimed at enhancing patient safety might not achieve the effect intended, as introducing new safety activities can cause more mistakes during the implementation phase.

Conclusion: Many useful practices to promote patient safety were identified, but as some practices appear to be context-dependent, we recommend that a proper, prospective risk assessment is carried out before they are introduced in a new setting. The full list of items is available online as Supplementary Digital Content, .

Trial registration: Not applicable.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety*
  • Prospective Studies