Ken Catchpole 

Leverhulme Research Fellow at Nuffield Dept. of Surgery, University of Oxford

Dr. Ken Catchpole is a research psychologist and human factors practitioner who seeks to understand and improve human performance in complex systems. After leading a nationwide project developing human abilities in weapon detection at UK airports, he began research in healthcare in 2003 at Great Ormond Street Hospital, examining teamwork and safety in surgery. He now co-leads the Quality, Reliability, Safety and Teamwork Unit in the Nuffield Department of Surgery at the University of Oxford, and works with caregivers to develop and scientifically evaluate interventions to improve safety, while taking a semi-ethnographic approach to understanding the complex nature of safety, quality and human error in healthcare. Following a two year study examining the mechanism by which errors in surgery cause harm, and a further two years evaluating aviation-style training to reduce surgical error, he is currently completing a project to reduce adverse incidents on surgical wards using industrial production principles. His work with the Ferrari racing team on handovers from surgery to intensive care was short-listed for the Times Research Project of the Year in 2007, was adopted internationally by a variety of hospitals and quality improvement organisations, and was exhibited in the Science Museum in London. Through more than 50 articles, keynote addresses, and media coverage, he has sought to engage a worldwide audience in the evaluation and improvement of safety in healthcare

Improving Human Performance in Surgical Care

A considerable number of patients are unintentionally harmed during their surgical care. It is becoming increasingly recognised that these errors are predisposed to by a system that requires optimal human performance, but does not always provide the best conditions to achieve that. Human factors is the study of the relationship between humans, the tasks that they perform, the equipment or tools they use to perform those tasks, and the environment in which they perform them. It provides an insight into why errors happen and how the system can be better matched to the human to reduce the chances of error, and increase overall system performance. In 2003 I began working alongside surgeons and other healthcare practitioners and will describe human factors studies to measure, model and reduce errors in the operating theatre, on surgical wards, and in handovers of patients between them.


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