What is a Clean Air Zone: Which Hospitals Are In Clean Air Zones?

Local authorities are introducing clean air zones in towns cities across the UK.

What is a Clean Are Zone?

Clean Air Zones are designated areas where authorities will take targeted action to improve the local air quality. The measures mainly involve targeting vehicle emissions with charges for any vehicles that exceed certain emission standards. There may also be reduced speed limits in clean air zones, which have been shown to have an impact on air quality.

Why Are Authorities Introducing Clean Air Zones?

The Government’s Clean Air Zone framework states that clean air zones are being introduced with a specific focus on reducing NO2 concentrations.

What is NO2?

NO2 is nitrous dioxide, a harmful chemical compound that’s mainly formed in the combustion of fossil fuels. You can read our full guide to the health risks associated with NO2.

But NO2 is not the only hazardous or toxic air pollutant found in vehicle exhaust fumes. Clean air zones can also help reduce levels of particulate matter, including PM10 and PM2.5.

The Different Types of Clean Air Zones

There are four types of clean air zones – Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D. Each class denotes the type of vehicle to which restrictions apply:

  • Class A – Buses, coaches, taxis, private hire vehicles.
  • Class B – All of the vehicles included in Class A, along with heavy goods vehicles.
  • Class C – All of the vehicles included in Class A and Class B, along with vans and minibuses.
  • Class D – All of the vehicles included in Class A, Class B, and Class C, as well as cars. In Class D clean air zones, the local authority may also include motorcycles.

Which UK Cities Have Clean Air Zones?

Currently, seven UK cities have clean air zones:

  • Bath – Class C, 1.2 square miles.
  • Birmingham – Class D, 2.96 square miles.
  • Bradford – Class C, 9.35 square miles.
  • Bristol – Class D, 1.18 square miles.
  • Portsmouth – Class B, 1.16 square miles.
  • Sheffield – Class C, 0.9 square miles.
  • Tyneside (Newcastle and Gateshead) – Class C, 0.94 square miles.

Greater Manchester is also planning to introduce a clean air zone, though it’s not yet apparent what class this zone will be, or how big an area it will cover.

In addition to this, London has a separate system of low and ultra-low emissions zones (ULEZ). There is also a separate system of low emission zones (LEZ) in certain Scottish cities.

The Importance of Clean Air Zones

Clean air zones may have a positive impact on public health. For some years now there have been serious concerns about the effects of air pollution on vulnerable populations – particularly in healthcare settings.

One report found that 25% of UK hospitals are located in areas with dangerously high levels of air pollution. A further study found that 60% of hospitals and NHS facilities in London are in areas that exceed air pollution limits.

Which UK Hospitals Are in Clean Air Zones?

To find out which UK hospitals are in Clean Air Zones, check this RAC Foundation clean air schemes map. In some areas there may be certain exemptions for hospital patients driving in clean air zones.

In Bristol, for example, residents do not have to pay to drive in the zones if they qualify for NHS travel costs support. This includes people on benefits such as universal credit, income support, and jobseekers allowance.

Is Your Hospital in an Area With High Pollution Levels?

If your hospital or healthcare setting is not located in a clean air zone, then you may have concerns about the pollution levels in your area, and the effects they may be having on staff, patient, and visitor health.

Cairn Technology can help you address the air quality in your hospital. We can provide specialist air quality monitoring schemes in any areas of your hospital where vulnerable patients congregate, as well as any areas where there may be exposure risks for your staff.

We also stock hospital-grade air filtration systems which can help you significantly improve the air quality in your hospital – and quickly.

Our Blueair HealthProtectTM air purifiers are fitted with advanced HEPASilent technology. This is capable of catching 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns, which includes PM2.5 fine air particles. But at the same time, they’ll capture many other hazardous and toxic air pollutants. They can also capture and kill 99% of viruses and bacteria.

Take a look at our specialist air purification systems for hospitals.

Managing Airborne Bacteria and Diseases in Hospitals

During the recent pandemic, one report found that over 40,000 people may have been infected with Covid-19 while being treated in hospital for another condition.

This study highlights the vital importance of managing airborne bacteria and diseases in hospitals and other healthcare settings. These are places where individuals with high infection rates can gather and interact with each other, with staff, and with other patients. Unless adequate infection prevention and control measures are in place, infections can rapidly spread among the wider hospital population, and beyond.

What Are The Most Common Airborne Diseases in Hospitals?

Covid-19 is not the only infection that hospitals and healthcare settings need to worry about. Other common airborne bacteria and diseases include:

  • Mites
  • Seasonal cold and flu viruses
  • Mould spores
  • Staphylococcus
  • Streptococcus
  • Enterococcus

Beyond this, hospitals and healthcare settings must contend with other harmful air pollutants, including:

How Do Airborne Diseases and Bacteria Spread in Hospitals?

Most airborne diseases spread from people to people, usually via sneezes and coughs. But there are other ways these airborne pathogens and bacteria can be introduced to healthcare settings. For example, a poorly maintained heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system can lead to the development of harmful mould spores.

Also, hospital HVAC systems are supposed to filter certain pollutants from the hospital’s air supply. If a hospital’s air purification system is not working like it should, then airborne pathogens can quickly prosper and spread.

Why Air Purification Matters in Hospitals and Healthcare Settings

Obviously, nobody should enter a hospital with one condition and develop a different illness while they’re receiving treatment. But beyond this, some patient demographics are particularly vulnerable to airborne infection.

Some are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, meaning that any infection could prove fatal. Elderly patients are also liable to experience severe symptoms in response to an infection.

Plus, hospital and healthcare staff will spend a lot of time interacting with infected people, and they may work entire shifts exposed to infected surfaces, equipment, or air. Hospitals are required by law to manage occupational risks for staff. And managing airborne viruses and bacteria is a major part of this duty of care.

How to Manage Airborne Bacteria and Diseases in Hospitals

Air purification is a hospital’s best line of defence against airborne bacteria and diseases. But there are other strategies hospitals and healthcare settings should adopt as part of a wider infection prevention and control plan.

Standard Infection Control Precautions

Every member of staff in every hospital or healthcare setting must adopt a series of Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICPs). These include:

  • Cough and sneeze etiquette – Catch any coughs and sneezes in a tissue, and immediately bin it. Hospitals can encourage this behaviour with posters, and through providing plenty of tissues, handwashing facilities, and bins for disposal.
  • Hand hygiene – Staff should perform a specific hand hygiene technique both before and after touching patients, and after touching a patient’s immediate surroundings. The hand hygiene procedure should also precede any clean or antiseptic procedures and follow any body fluid exposure risk.
  • Patient placement – Hospitals and healthcare settings should assess every patient’s infection risk the moment they arrive. If possible, any patients demonstrating a high risk of cross-infection should be isolated from any patients with a high infection risk.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Airborne Bacteria and Diseases

PPE can act as a barrier against common infection vectors, such as coughs, sneezes, and bodily fluids. Hospitals and healthcare settings should follow a series of PPE protocols relating to storage, use, and disposal.

Read our full guide to deciding on what type of PPE to use for each procedure. We also have a detailed guide to the factors you should consider when choosing PPE for your healthcare setting.

Cleaning Procedures for Airborne Infections

As we’ll discuss in more depth below, air purification is the most vital aspect of managing airborne viruses and bacteria in hospitals and healthcare settings. But it’s also important to follow robust cleaning procedures for surfaces and equipment, or any other areas where airborne pathogens may settle and thrive.

Guidelines might include:

  • Thoroughly cleaning any reusable equipment before use and storing them in a sterile environment until they’re required.
  • Regular floor and surface cleaning – including the use of hospital grade cleaning products.
  • Effective zoning of the healthcare environment based on the levels of cleanliness, the presence of microorganisms, and the types of procedures carried out.

You can read our complete guide to cleaning for infection control in healthcare settings.

Air Filtration

The above measures are critical to an effective infection prevention and control strategy. But nothing is more effective against airborne viruses and diseases than hospital grade air filtration systems.

For example, a study by the University of Cambridge found that an air filtration system in a Covid-19 ward served to successfully remove almost 100% of the virus from the air.

Different areas of a hospital or healthcare setting will have different air filtration requirements. Waiting rooms and other public areas will need a good supply of clean air to prevent the spread of infection among staff and inpatients.

Operating theatres and other treatment areas will have much more substantial air filtration needs, with a set number of air changes per hour (ACH). And any areas where immunosuppressed or immunocompromised patients might gather will also need a totally dependable system for filtering and destroying airborne pathogens.

Read our full guide to air filtration systems in hospitals here. Also be sure to browse our range of HealthProtect air purifiers, which are specifically designed to help hospitals and other healthcare settings manage the risks of airborne viruses and bacteria. They can deliver complete filtration every 12.5 minutes in rooms as large as 62m² trapping and killing up to 99% of viruses and bacteria – including the Covid-19 virus.

Want to talk about how we can help you manage airborne diseases in your hospital? Get in touch to talk to one of our air purification experts today.

DAS 2024 – Decontamination and Sterilisation Conference

Is DAS 2024 already in your calendar? If you are a decontamination manager or lead, or part of the sterile services team then this is an event not to be missed.

Taking place on 6th February at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham, this transformative conference aims to shape the future of decontamination and sterilisation.

DAS 2024 Speakers and Workshops

Hosting a range of speakers including Trevor Garcia, Chairman of the Institute of Decontamination Sciences, and Sharon Fox, Head of Decontamination at University Hospital Birmingham NHS, talks will cover a range of topics from developing an effective staff competency framework to best practise for patient safety.

There will also be 15 workshops throughout the day, exploring topics including:

  • the role of the decontamination lead,
  • innovations in ultrasound decontamination,
  • advanced endoscope decontamination, and
  • the role of surface disinfection.

Other benefits for Decontamination Professionals

As a delegate, you can access a host of other benefits:

  • earn 7+ hours of CPD Accredited Points for your Annual Assessments,
  • interact with leaders in decontamination and sterilisation,
  • connect with professionals and stakeholders in the field, and
  • shape practices in decontamination and sterilisation.

Interested in best practice and products?

Come and see us on stand B12 to find out why decontamination and CSSU managers across the UK specify our products and services.

  • Stille Surgical Instruments

Come and handle our range of Stille surgical instruments, which are warrantied for 30 years.

You’ll be able to see how these instruments have been carefully designed to optimise longevity through ease of cleaning and maintenance. That’s why they offer exceptional precision, strength and durability despite decades of use.

Covering a wide range of specialisms from general and orthopaedic surgery to cardiothoracic, plastic surgery and more, they can be the stalwarts of your instrument sets for years to come.

To find out more about our Stille surgical instruments click here.

  • COSHH Monitoring for Endoscopy

Our workplace exposure monitoring helps endoscopy departments to achieve and maintain their annual JAG accreditation.

This provides important evidence that an NHS or independent UK endoscopy service is competent to deliver against the criteria set out in the JAG standards and fulfil IHEEM annual AE(D) audit part 9.6.

Our monitoring of endoscope decontamination rooms is carried out to assess staff exposure to peracetic and acetic acid.

It enables our customers to demonstrate that their control measures are keeping any exposure within required limits, as stated in regulation 10 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 Regulations (COSHH).

To find out about our monitoring service for endoscope decontamination rooms click here.

Want to attend the Decontamination and Sterilisation Conference 2024?

To find out more about the DAS 2024 speakers, agenda and how to register just click here now.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference!


Bodily Fluid Clean Up Procedure

In all healthcare settings, bodily fluids are a major vector for spreading harmful pathogens. For this reason, an effective bodily fluid clean up procedure is one of the 10 Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICP).

In this post we will outline the advised bodily fluid clean up procedure while also discussing certain solutions that will help you stay on top of your infection prevention duties without compromising on your operational efficiency.

Potentially Hazardous Bodily Fluids in Healthcare Settings

Any bodily fluid can contain germs which can cause infection. Because it’s not always clear whether a person has an infection, you should take adequate precautions wherever you might encounter:

  • Blood
  • Faeces
  • Saliva
  • Vomit
  • Nasal discharges
  • Urine

The Bodily Fluid Clean Up Procedure

  • You should clean up any bodily fluid spillages immediately.
  • Wear adequate PPE. You should always wear gloves. If there’s a risk of splashing, also wear an apron. Assess the need for facial and eye protection depending on the circumstances.
  • Choose the right cleaning product. The best cleaning products for bodily fluids combine detergent and disinfectant, making them effective against both viruses and bacteria. If this is not possible, clean with a detergent first, followed by a disinfectant. Browse our range of hospital-grade cleaning products.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and take care not to use any products that are unsuitable for the body fluid you’re cleaning. For example, if the cleaning product contains any trace of chlorine, then it cannot be used to clean urine.
  • Use disposable paper towels or cloths, and dispose of them immediately and safely after use, in the correct waste stream.
  • Always have specialist spillage kits on hand so you can safely and quickly clean high-risk bodily fluids including blood, vomit, and urine.

Access the official NHS safe management of blood and body fluids guidelines.

Speciality Bodily Fluid Spill Kits

We stock a range of specialist spill kits for healthcare settings. Our range includes bodily fluid spill kits  to effectively clean and decontaminate affected areas.

Browse our full range of spill kits.

We also offer detailed training to help your staff understand and respond to the spill risks they face in their work. Get in touch for more information.

How To Make Your Fluid Control More Effective in a Healthcare Setting

When it comes to spillages of bodily fluids, effective infection prevention and control depends on acting as quickly as possible. Our spill kits can make a huge difference here, and we also stock an advanced range of absorbent floor mats for hospitals and other healthcare settings.

Our absorbent mats will help you optimise your fluid management for dependable infection prevention and control. They will also help you avoid additional health and safety risks, such as slips and trips, while greatly optimising your turnaround times.

For example, our T-Mat absorbent floor mat can absorb up to 8.5 litres of water or 3.5 litres of saline. It gels liquids in minutes, binding the fluid hygienically and becoming dry to the touch. This means you can quickly, easily, and safely dispose of the mat in the appropriate clinical waste stream.

Browse our full range of bodily fluid management solutions for hospitals and other healthcare settings.


How bad is bed blocking in the NHS?

Bed blocking, or delayed discharge, continues to pose significant challenges to the NHS in the UK.

This bottleneck situation typically occurs when patients, who are medically fit for discharge, remain in hospital beds due to difficulties in securing appropriate care or support in the community.

Delayed discharge not only puts a strain on hospital resources but also hampers the efficient functioning of the healthcare system as a whole.

Only this September, the BBC website reported that a Healthcare Inspectorate Wales’ report found “consistent challenges” caused by poor patient flow through wards.

The report said that “Unnecessarily long stays in hospital due to delayed discharge can place patients at risk of hospital acquired infections or deterioration whilst awaiting discharge”.

What are the causes of bed blocking?

  1. Social Care Shortages: One of the primary causes of bed blocking is the shortage of social care resources. Patients often require ongoing care or rehabilitation services upon discharge, but the lack of available community-based care options leads to delays.
  2. Integration Challenges: The integration between health and social care services is often fragmented. Poor communication and coordination between NHS hospitals and social care providers can contribute to delays in arranging suitable care plans for patients.
  3. Capacity Issues: Limited capacity in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and other community-based facilities exacerbates the problem. Without sufficient places for patients to be transferred, hospitals experience increased pressure to retain patients in beds.
  4. Complex Patient Cases: Some patients have complex health and social care needs, requiring careful planning for their transition from hospital to community settings. Coordinating the various aspects of their care can lead to delays.

What are the consequences of delayed discharge?

  1. Increased Healthcare Costs: Bed blocking leads to increased healthcare costs as hospitals bear the financial burden of keeping patients in beds longer than necessary.
  2. Strain on NHS Resources: The strain on hospital resources is evident, affecting the overall efficiency of healthcare services. The occupancy of beds by patients who no longer require acute care hampers the admission of new patients in need.
  3. Compromised Patient Outcomes: Prolonged hospital stays can negatively impact patient outcomes. It increases the risk of hospital-acquired infections and diminishes the quality of life for patients who could be better served in a more appropriate setting.
  4. Public Dissatisfaction: Bed blocking contributes to public dissatisfaction with the NHS. Long waiting times and inefficient use of resources diminish public trust in the healthcare system.

What are the solutions to bed blocking?

  1. Investment in Social Care: Addressing bed blocking requires increased investment in social care services to enhance capacity and meet the growing demand for community-based support.
  2. Improved Integration: Strengthening the integration between health and social care services is essential. This involves creating seamless communication channels and shared protocols for patient transitions. Further to the Hewitt Review which reported its findings on 4 April 2023 and the recent Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) inquiry into the workings of the local health and care systems, the government has reaffirmed its support for Integrated Care Systems.
  3. Capacity Building: Investing in the expansion of community-based facilities, such as nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, can help alleviate capacity issues and provide more options for patient discharge.
  4. Streamlined Discharge Planning: Hospitals must prioritize efficient discharge planning. This includes identifying potential challenges early, involving social care services from the beginning, and ensuring a smooth transition for patients.
  5. Technology Adoption: The adoption of technology, such as electronic health records and telemedicine, can facilitate better communication between healthcare providers and streamline the transfer of patient information during the discharge process.


Addressing delayed discharge in the NHS is a multifaceted challenge that requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach.

By investing in social care, improving integration, expanding capacity, streamlining discharge planning, and adopting technology, the NHS can work towards minimizing the impact of bed blocking on patients and the healthcare system as a whole.


Navigating the Winter Wave: Understanding and Coping with NHS Winter Bugs

As winter descends upon us, so does the inevitable surge in seasonal illnesses that often lead to increased pressures on healthcare systems, including the NHS.

The annual influx of these illnesses not only puts an immediate strain on the NHS, but also exacerbates the existing NHS backlog, so it is important to try and stem these seasonal crises points as much as possible.

The term “winter bugs” encompasses a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe respiratory infections, and the impact on public health can be significant. In this blog post, we will explore the common winter bugs affecting the UK, understand why they peak during the colder months, and discuss strategies for prevention and coping.

Common Winter Bugs

Influenza (Flu): Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms include fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. Winter is the peak season for flu, leading to increased hospital admissions and strain on healthcare resources.

Common Cold: Rhinoviruses are the primary culprits behind the common cold, with symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, and sneezing. While colds are prevalent year-round, they tend to spike during the winter months.

Norovirus: Also known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus causes gastroenteritis, leading to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. It spreads easily in crowded places, making it a common culprit for outbreaks in schools, hospitals, and care homes during winter.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): RSV is a common virus that causes respiratory infections, especially in young children and older adults. The virus spreads easily in cold weather and can lead to severe complications like pneumonia.

Why more bugs in Winter?

Several factors contribute to the seasonal increase in of bugs over the Winter months.

During colder months, people spend more time indoors in close proximity, enabling the spread of viruses.

What’s more, viruses, particularly those causing respiratory infections, thrive in cold and dry conditions as cold air can weaken the immune system’s response to infections.

A lack of sunlight exposure during winter can lead to vitamin D deficiency, which is associated with a weakened immune system. Additionally, the holiday season often brings increased stress, inadequate sleep, and poor nutrition—all of which compromise immunity.

Helping our NHS to Cope

There are a number of prevention strategies that people can employ to try and avoid winter bugs and so reduce the number of related hospital admissions. These include:

Vaccination: The most effective way to prevent influenza is through vaccination. Annual flu vaccines are recommended, especially for vulnerable populations such as the elderly, young children, and those with chronic health conditions. You can also ask for a COVID-19 vaccine if you are aged 65 and over, a resident in an elderly care home, aged 6 months and over in a clinical risk group, or if you are frontline health and social care staff.

Hand Hygiene: Regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds helps prevent the spread of viruses. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a convenient alternative when soap is not available.

Respiratory Hygiene: Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing helps prevent the spread of respiratory droplets.

Boosting Immunity: Maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and adequate sleep. Consider vitamin D supplements during winter, especially if sunlight exposure is limited.

Stay Informed: Keep abreast of public health advisories and take appropriate precautions. If you experience symptoms, seek medical advice promptly to prevent the spread of illness.


Winter bugs are an annual challenge for the NHS. By understanding the factors contributing to their seasonal surge and adopting preventive measures, individuals can play a crucial role in minimizing the impact on public health. Whether it’s getting vaccinated, practicing good hand hygiene, or taking steps to bolster immunity, proactive measures can go a long way in navigating the winter wave of illnesses.

Health and Wellbeing and Indoor Environmental Quality in Buildings – A Guide to BS 40102-1:2023

BS 40102-1:2023 – Health and Wellbeing and Indoor Environmental Quality in Buildings is a new code of practice which launched in April 2023.

In this post we’ll explain what BS 40102-1:2023 entails and discuss how you can meet the new regulations in your workplace.

What is BS 40102?

This new code of practice outlines a monitoring and reporting strategy for assessing wellbeing and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of non-domestic buildings. It establishes a rating system for benchmarking the quality of the:

  • Air
  • Light
  • Thermal comfort
  • Acoustics and soundscape

With these benchmark scores, facility managers can identify any problematic areas and make any necessary improvements.

BS 40102 applies to all forms of non-domestic buildings, existing or new.

Why Has ‘Health and Wellbeing and Indoor Environmental Quality in Buildings’ Been Introduced?

The BSI Group acknowledges that previous regulations, coupled with certain commercial pressures, encouraged designers, builders, and facility managers to prioritise energy efficiency. All too often, a focus on energy efficiency means that the health and wellbeing of a building’s occupants gets overlooked. For instance, a building might be constructed with efficient insulation, but with little thought given to the quality of ventilation and light levels.

These new standards will help facility managers and others improve the IEQs of the buildings they oversee. Improving IEQ can help reduce operating costs through increasing energy efficiency. But for hospitals and other healthcare settings, addressing IEQ can help improve staff and patient health and wellbeing while contributing to infection prevention and control.

BS 40102 Air Quality Standards

When it comes to air quality, BS 40102 outlines rating systems for:

Example Indoor Environmental Quality Benchmarks

Below are the BS 40102 rating systems for two forms of particulate matter – PM2.5 and PM10.


Level Description 24 Hour Average (μg/m3)
0 Very High ≥32
1 High 16 – <32
2 Acceptable 10 – <16
3 Low 5 – <10
4 Very Low <5



Level Description 24 Hour Average (μg/m3)
0 Very High ≥68
1 High 46 – <68
2 Acceptable 30– <46
3 Low 10 – <30
4 Very Low <10


How Cairn Technology Can Help You Meet BS 40102 Regulations

We can measure the air quality throughout your healthcare setting and monitor your staff’s exposure levels to any potentially harmful substances. As well as the hazardous pollutants covered by BS 40102, we can also test for levels of sevoflurane, isoflurane, Entonox, and more. This will help you understand your risk levels so you can devise an air quality solution that works for you. Head here to learn more about our bespoke air quality monitoring services.

We also stock a range of specialist air purification systems. Our Blueair HealthProtectTM  air purifiers are fitted with advanced HEPASilent technology. This is capable of catching 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns, including PM2.5 fine air particles, as well as VOCs, dust, mould, and up to 99% of viruses and bacteria. Browse our full range of hospital grade air purifiers.

Women in Surgery in England – looking back, moving forward

The number of women in surgery in England is growing, but there are still significant issues facing female surgeons.

According to the Royal College of Surgeons in England, the ratio of male to female consultant surgeons in the UK is approximately 8:1.

This disparity between male and female surgeons is marked. It reflects that fact that for many centuries women were barred by men from practicing surgery in the UK.

Only in 1876, did parliamentary legislation open up medical and university education for women. By the end of that century, women were able to study medicine at almost all British universities.

By 1919 there were only four women Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; 90 years later this figure was 1184.

Women in surgery today

Today, more women than ever are considering medicine as a career. In fact, according to the Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS), in 2020, 64% of people accepted on to medicine and dentistry degree courses in the UK were women.

The numbers of female surgeons are also rising. Based on 2022 data from NHS Digital, in 1991, 3% of consultant surgeons in the UK were female and this rose to 14.7% in 2022. In terms of surgical specialisms, the highest percentage of female surgeons are in paediatric surgery at almost 30%, followed by plastic surgery at around 22%.

Issues facing today’s female surgeons

Whilst surgeons can already work long and unsociable hours, this lifestyle can prove particularly difficult for women who need to take on the main responsibility for parenting.

In 2021, the Kennedy Review made a key recommendation to deliver a flagship Parents in Surgery project to help current and prospective surgeons balance parenthood and a surgical career.

Then in 2022 the RCS England commissioned the Nuffield Trust to carry out an independent review of the impact of parental or caring responsibilities on pursuing a career in surgery.

All of this will hopefully help female surgeons to find a workable and healthier balance between providing their surgical expertise, whilst having time to properly care for their children.

Sadly, another issue facing female surgeons that has recently been highlighted in the media is that fact that many are experience sexual harassment or assault in the workplace.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Surgery, almost one in three female surgeons working in the NHS said they have been sexually assaulted in the past five years.

This has led the chair of the Women in Surgery forum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England to call for the creation of a national implementation panel to oversee action on the report’s recommendations and for incidents of sexual misconduct to be independently investigated.

In addition, a Guardian/British Medical Journal investigation found that more than 35,600 “sexual safety incidents” had been recorded in NHS hospitals in England over the past five years.

Clearly, these sorts of findings may in themselves put off some very talented women from entering the profession or indeed being able to continue in it.

Women together – support for female surgeons

Thankfully, there is a strong support network for women specialising in surgery. It’s called Women in Surgery (WinS) and is a national initiative dedicated to encouraging, enabling and inspiring women to fulfil their surgical career ambitions.

By registering for the WinS network you can connect with over 6,000 women from all career grades and specialties across the UK to collaborate, network and find support. To find out more and how to join click here.




UK NHS Waiting List Targets – Where Are We?

Following the global pandemic, a number of enforced government lockdowns, and a few other factors, patients across the UK are currently facing long waiting lists for even the most routine of treatments.

In this post we’ll review the NHS waiting list situation across the UK and explore how the government are progressing on their targets to address the issue.

UK NHS Waiting Lists in 2022 – A Brief Review

Nearly a year ago, we assessed the current state of the NHS backlog. Based on British Medical Association figures, there were:

  • Over 6.84 million people waiting for treatment.
  • 7 million patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment (the NHS’s self-imposed “maximum waiting time”).
  • Nearly 400,000 patients waiting more than a year for treatment.
  • A median waiting time of around 13.3 weeks for all treatments.

At the same time, the BMA referred to a “hidden backlog” of patients needing care who had not yet found their way into the health system.

Are NHS Waiting Lists Getting Worse?

Unfortunately, all signs indicate that across the UK, NHS waiting lists are getting worse. More recently, we covered how it’s not just waiting lists that are getting longer. UK patients are also facing excessive waits to see ambulances. In one extreme case, an 85 year old woman had to wait a total of 40 hours to get to A&E.

UK NHS Waiting Lists in 2023 – Where Are We Now?

As we’ve seen, in mid-2022 there were around 6.84 million people waiting to start routine hospital treatment in England alone. As of September 2023, it seems the figure for England has risen to 7.68 million people, a further rise from the 7.57 million people who were waiting for treatment in June 2023.

For England, this is the biggest the waiting list has ever been since records began in 2007.

The latest data shows that:

  • 389,952 people in England have been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment.
  • By the end of July 2023, 7,289 people in England had been waiting more than 19 months to start routine treatment.
  • The proportion of cancer patients who were able to see a specialist within two weeks of urgent referral fell from 80.5% in June 2023, to 77.5% in July. The NHS’s target is 93%.
  • In A&E, 73% of patients are being seen within four hours. The NHS set a standard of 95%, and the government set a “recovery target” of 73%.

In Wales, around 30,000 people have been waiting more than two years for hospital treatment. Scotland and Northern Ireland differ in how they define their waiting lists. But according to The Guardian, the best “broadly equivalent figures” show that around one in nine people in Scotland, and up to 36% of people in Northern Ireland, are waiting for care.

What is the Plan to Reduce UK NHS Waiting Lists?

In June 2023, the government published a 2023 mandate to NHS England. This mandate highlights long waiting lists, and long A&E and ambulance waiting times, as the key challenges currently facing the NHS. As part of the plan to address these issues, the mandate outlines “record funding”, with an investment of an additional £3.3 billion a year in 2023 to 2024 and 2024 to 2025.

This increased funding will, they claim, “enable rapid action to improve emergency, elective, and primary care performance towards pre-pandemic levels.”

The mandate only applies to NHS England. In August 2023, health secretary Steve Barclay invited the Welsh and Scottish governments to discuss how best to tackle the NHS waiting list issue. Official counterparts in Northern Ireland were also invited to the meeting “in the absence of a functioning government”.

The aim is that the four nations can discuss how they might make their data more comparable, and how they might learn from the different approaches taken by NHS England and the devolved health authorities.

Improving Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare Settings

While we cannot help you address long waiting lists in your hospital, we can help you to improve staff safety and well-being, and reduce theatre turnaround times.

Get in touch to talk to one of our experts today.

Cairn supports amazing Children’s Heart Surgery Fund

Here at Cairn Technology, we are delighted to have raised £2,300 for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF) since starting to donate in November 2021.

We are very proud to be supporting this amazing charity, as it provides life-saving medical equipment for the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit (LCHU), as well as parent accommodation for families, and vital ward resources.

In addition, the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund also funds staff training, scientific research, and new clinical roles.

Major requests for funding are reviewed by the board of trustees, which has awarded over £10 million in grants to the LCHU and the region’s supporting hospitals, helping countless congenital heart disease patients and their families.

Why and how we support CHSF

We have a strong personal connection with the charity, as one of our staff members has a daughter who was treated at the Heart Unit.

We will be funding vital equipment for the charity, as well as making contributions throughout the year to Bella’s INR home testing kit.

These kits reduce stress and allow a patient to test their blood levels themselves at home without missing school for hospital appointments.

Why help this children’s charity?

CHSF are wholly funded by donations from the public and business. So far, those donations have enabled the charity to help over 17,000 babies, children and adults living with congenital heart disease (CHD) each year.

So, if you are looking to support a children’s charity, this one should definitely be at the top of your list. And there are so many ways that you can get involved!

To get started, why not order a free fundraising pack which will give you plenty of fundraising ideas. Or if you already have your fundraising idea, you will need to register.

You can also find out about the various scheduled CHSF fundraising events at this link: https://www.chsf.org.uk/events/