Poor teamwork can have serious consequences

The Royal College of Surgeons found that poor teamwork was a factor in cases where rare complications occurred

Poor teamwork can have serious consequences

Lack of teamwork is at the heart of many workplace issues, according to a review by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) that has implications across many different sectors. 

The RCS found that, where rare complications occurred in surgical practice, poor teamwork between surgeons was often a leading factor. Its analysis of 100 surgical reviews from the past decade identified poor teamwork as an issue leading to problems in surgery in more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of cases. 

Professor Timothy Rockall, chair of the RCS Invited Review Mechanism, said that teamwork was an issue because consultants were not meeting regularly to reflect on practice, or tensions between group members had formed due to organisational restructuring. 

“It’s vital that surgical teams improve the quality and frequency of discussions about surgical performance, so that problems can be resolved before they affect the safety of patients,” Rockall said. 

The review also identified the absence of agreed working practices, such as those governing the handover of patients when on call. Although practices may exist, the RCS found they were not always explored. 

More than half (57 per cent) of reviews identified that surgical teams needed to improve multidisciplinary teamworking. The RCS called on surgical teams, NHS leaders and private hospitals to embed strong teamworking skills across all their services. 

Rockall emphasised that problems with teamwork were not unique to surgery, and hospitals should consider improvements across all departments and functions.