Staffing Issues & Safe Staffing Levels in Operating Theatres

The healthcare sector is currently facing severe staffing shortages. This is contributing to a number of problems, including a huge backlog of care, and long ambulance waiting times.

It goes without saying that staff shortages can have a negative impact on the quality-of-care hospitals and other healthcare settings can deliver. Yet there are some areas of the hospital where staffing levels can make the difference between life and death.

In this post we’ll discuss safe staffing levels in operating theatres, and discuss some strategies for increasing the efficiency of your department.

Safe Staffing Levels in Operating Theatres

It takes a huge team of practitioners, specialists, and support staff to run an operating theatre. Recent operating room staffing guidelines suggested placing limits on staff work schedules. They advised scheduling no more than 12 hours a day, no more than three consecutive days of 12-hour shifts, and no more than 60 hours a week.

Knock-On Impact of Staff Shortages

Staff shortages in the operating theatre make it difficult to devise optimum rotas. This means that any available staff will inevitably be overstretched and overworked, which will lead to a number of problems:

  • Stress, exhaustion, and anxiety. Working long hours in a complex environment like an operating theatre will take its toll on practitioners’ mental health. And when long hours become the rule rather than the exception, practitioners risk burnout, and some may feel that they have no choice but to quit.
  • Lack of learning and development. Operating theatre teams look out for each other, which includes helping new members of the team learn on the job. When everyone’s overworked, there’ll be little time for learning and development opportunities.
  • Delayed or cancelled operations. If the staff isn’t there to carry out the operations, the operations will not take place. Many patients may face excessive waits for critical operations.
  • Longer turnaround time between procedures. An understaffed operating theatre will not be able to run at optimum efficiency. There may be fewer procedures carried out each day, with much longer turnaround times between each procedure.

How Bad is the Current Operating Theatre Staffing Situation?

The latest NHS figures show that, as of November 2022, there were 3% more professionally qualified clinical staff in the NHS compared to the previous year. Though the NHS’s staffing crisis is showing signs of improvement, the increased staffing may not be enough to meet demand.

In January 2023, in response to industrial action across the UK, the government discussed plans to introduce new legislation for “minimum safety levels” in a range of sectors, including healthcare. Such legislation may introduce a minimum legal staffing level for operating theatres and other departments.

Improving the Efficiency of Your Operating Theatre

The NHS Productive Operating Theatre strategy includes a number of initiatives that operating theatre managers can adopt to improve the efficiency of their departments. You can read our full guidance to this strategy here.

Adopting these strategies might be easier said than done when you’re facing staffing level issues. Yet when it comes to improving operating theatre efficiency, small things can make a big difference.

At Cairn Technology, we’re here to help you run your operating theatre more efficiently and effectively. We have a number of products and services to help you do that, and a team of experts on hand to give you the advice you need.

For example, our absorbent floor mats can help to reduce your turnaround time between procedures. They can absorb spillages during operations, gelling liquid and becoming dry to the touch, allowing for non-drip disposal in the clinical waste. As well as reducing the risk of slips and trips, absorbent floor mats can drastically cut town on the amount of time spent cleaning between operations, which can contribute to improved efficiency for your whole department.

Whether you want a consultation on effective infection control, or some advice on improving operational effectiveness in the theatre, our experts are here to help.

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

How Do You Sterilise and Clean Surgical Instruments?

Surgical instruments are used exclusively in sterile spaces, and they’re specifically designed to penetrate a patient’s skin or mucous membrane.

In this post we’ll discuss some best practice techniques for cleaning and sterilising surgical instruments.

Benefits of Effective Cleaning and Sterilisation of Surgical Instruments

Infection Prevention and Control
As such, cleaning and sterilising surgical instruments before use is an essential part of infection prevention and control in hospitals.

Prolong Surgical Instrument Lifespan
Effective cleaning and sterilisation can also prolong the lifespan of surgical instruments, keeping them as sharp and effective as possible for as long as possible.

Decrease Turnaround Time
And an efficient cleaning and sterilisation process can help streamline your entire department, helping to reduce the turnaround time between procedures.

The Difference Between Cleaning and Sterilisation

There is a difference between cleaning a surgical instrument, and sterilising a surgical instrument:

  • Cleaning – Using water and disinfectant to remove organic matter.
  • Sterilising – Using chemicals or specialist equipment to remove all microbes from an object.

A surgical instrument must be sterilised before use. But it must be visibly clean before it’s ready for sterilising.

How to Clean and Sterilise Surgical Instruments

Different instruments may go through different cleaning and sterilisation processes depending on their material, and their frequency of use. But this is the general process that the majority of instruments will go through between uses.

Step 1 – Preprocessing

Following a surgical procedure, surgical instruments are treated with transport gels at the point of use. These gels prevent the drying of bioburden, which can make later cleaning and sterilisation processes faster and more effective.

Step 2 – Manual Cleaning

Once treated with transport gel, the sterile instruments are taken to a dedicated decontamination area. All instruments will then go through a manual cleaning process. Some instruments may have to be disassembled first, to ensure that all of their surfaces can be cleaned.

Ideally, the manual cleaning team will have access to a three bay sink:

  • Bay 1 – Pre-rinsing instruments with cold water to remove transport gel, and organic matter such as blood and bone.
  • Bay 2 – Immersing instruments in a solution, which will be either neutral detergent or enzymatic depending on the instrument. Following immersion, the instruments are brushed by hand.
  • Bay 3 – Final rinsing. Depending on the instrument, manufacturers may recommend different treatments for the rinse water. If the water’s too hard, it can lead to spotting. Chloride levels can also damage instruments, and microorganism levels can lead to cross-contamination.

Step 3 – Automated Washing

Following the manual cleaning, surgical instruments will go through a specialist automated washing process. This is the sterilisation stage, where any microorganisms will be removed and killed.

Different instruments will require different equipment and processes, including:

  • Disinfectors – The instruments are sprayed with pressurised water at a predefined temperature, flow, and chemical concentration. Manufacturers will recommend the optimum parameters for each instrument.
  • Ultrasonic Cleaning – Some surgical instruments have delicate, hard-to-reach features including hinges and crevices. Automatic disinfector machines may not effectively clean these areas, so ultrasonic cleaning processes are used instead. This involves using high-frequency sonic waves to clean the entire surface of an instrument, often alongside low-foaming enzymatic cleaning agents. Instruments must be thoroughly washed with soft water following ultrasonic cleaning.

Step 4 – Storage

Following the cleaning process, surgical instruments are labelled to indicate the date they were cleaned. They are then carefully transported to, and stored within, a sterile environment until they’re ready for use again.

Essential Tips For Caring For Your Surgical Instruments

You’ll find many guides on our site to help you keep your surgical instruments sterile and in good working order for as long as possible:

We also specialise in supplying high quality instruments for use in all surgical disciplines. If you’d like to discuss your surgical instrument requirements, get in touch to talk to an expert today.

Tips For New Operating Theatre Nurses

If you’re a new operating theatre nurse – or you’re thinking of starting a new role – in this post we’ll discuss some ways you can make the most of your learning and become a valued and integral member of the theatre team.

What Does an Operating Theatre Nurse Do?

Operating theatre nurses – sometimes known as perioperative nurses – provide skilled care and support during each stage of a patient’s operating theatre treatment. As part of the larger operating theatre team, operating theatre nurses work in the theatre itself, as well as the anaesthetic and recovery areas. You may also provide some care and support in wards, clinics, and other specialist areas.

Over the course of your working day, you will either focus on one area, or rotate through several.

Understanding your responsibilities is key to your success in your role. So let’s take a look at what your main responsibilities will be throughout the patient’s perioperative care.

Preoperative Care

You’ll ensure the patient knows as much as possible about their procedure, including why it’s happening, the intended outcome, and the possible risks they’ll face. You’ll give the patient an opportunity to ask questions, and you’ll ensure that they’re healthy enough for surgery.

This preparation will reduce the risks of later cancellations, which will waste resources and slow the entire department down.

Anaesthetic Support

You’ll support the anaesthetist through preparing all the necessary equipment and drugs. The operating theatre nurse is also responsible for conducting the final assessment of the patient immediately before their surgery.


Operating theatre nurses will work a number of roles throughout the surgical procedure. These might include:

  • Preparing and supervising the surgical instruments and equipment.
  • Providing the surgeon with equipment and materials as required, including needles, swabs, and surgical instruments.
  • Acting as a link between the surgical team and the wider operating theatre and hospital.

Recovery and Final Assessment

Once the patient arrives at the post anaesthetic care unit, you’ll monitor their condition and provide any care and support they might need. You’ll also conduct the patient’s final assessment before discharging them back to a ward.

Other Roles and Responsibilities of Operating Theatre Nurses

As you develop in your role, you may take on additional roles and responsibilities. These may include:

  • Organising the workload between the whole perioperative nurse team.
  • General administrative duties.
  • Overseeing the supply of consumable items and managing your department’s purchasing budget.
  • Providing teaching, training and support to new operating theatre nurses.

What Skills Does an Operating Theatre Nurse Need?

  • You must be highly organised with an ability to stay flexible in your role and prioritise your work effectively. Operating theatre nurses need to anticipate the needs of other members of the surgical team, so you need to be able to think on your feet.
  • As you’ll be working closely with both patients and the rest of the operating theatre team, good interpersonal skills are a must. You must be compassionate and comforting for the patients, but steadfast and reliable for the surgical team.
  • Operating theatre nurses work long shifts, and some surgical procedures can take hours. So you’ll need good stamina, and the ability to retain your focus for long periods.
  • Operating theatres are confined, high-pressure spaces. The team’s depending on you. You must be able to keep your cool when working in difficult circumstances, reacting quickly, calmly and effectively to emergencies.

Tips For New Theatre Nurses

  • Make the most of your training. Senior perioperative nurses will provide on-the-job training and support. Listen carefully, ask lots of questions, and be prepared to discuss your progress regularly. Also be sure to talk to any other junior members of the team. They’ll be happy to support you, and you can support them right back.
  • Be kind to yourself. You’ll probably find your role overwhelming at first, because operating theatres can be overwhelming environments. Be patient with yourself, and don’t expect to be able to excel in your role immediately. It will take you some time to adjust, but you’ll get there.
  • Meet the team. The sooner you understand who everyone else is and what their key responsibilities are, the sooner you can provide the support they need, when they need it. Operating theatre teams are big. So again, this will be overwhelming at first. But once more, you’ll get there in the end. Read this essential introduction to who you can expect to meet on your first day as an operating theatre nurse.

One thing you’ll quickly learn is this: In the operating theatre, the smallest thing can make a huge difference.

For example, absorbent floor mats can collect all excess fluid during a procedure. And following procedures, you can simply pick them up and discard them.

This might not sound like much, but it means you’ll spend less time mopping between procedures, which will improve health and safety standards while also significantly cutting down on turnaround times.

What is an Operating Department Practitioner and What Do They Do?

If you’re considering a new career in healthcare, or even a career shift, few working environments are more challenging yet more rewarding than an operating theatre.

We’ve got a comprehensive guide to the various roles and responsibilities in an operating theatre. We’ve also got a dedicated guide to the key responsibilities for operating theatre managers.

In this post we’ll take a closer look at the work of an operating department practitioner.

What is an Operating Department Practitioner?

Operating department practitioners play a vital role in all three stages of perioperative care:

  • Anaesthetic
  • Surgery
  • Recovery


Operating department practitioners provide essential help to patients before surgery. They might supervise patients to ensure they’re ready for their procedure. And where necessary, they might offer words of comfort and support.

Operating department practitioners will also support anaesthetists through helping them prepare their equipment and drugs. You’ll help set up anaesthetic machines, intravenous equipment, and the devices for securing the patient’s airways while they’re under anaesthetics.


Operating department practitioners are a key part of the surgery team. Once again, they’ll support surgeons through preparing all the necessary instruments and equipment for the procedure, such as microscopes and endoscopes.

During the procedure, operating department practitioners will provide the surgeon with all the correct instruments and materials. They’ll also act as a link between the surgical team and the other parts of the theatre and the hospital. Good communication can help decrease turnaround times between procedures, but it’s also vital to effective emergency response.

In short, during procedures, operating department practitioners must learn to anticipate the requirements of the surgical team and respond quickly and effectively. So surgical teams depend utterly on operating department practitioners. When ODPs take care of their practical and clinical needs, surgeons are free to concentrate entirely on the procedure.


Following the procedure, operating department practitioners support and monitor the patient once they arrive in the recovery unit. You may have to provide appropriate treatment while they recover from the short-term effects of the anaesthesia and surgery. And you’ll conduct the assessment to determine whether the patient’s ready for discharge to a ward.

What Else Does an Operating Department Practitioner Do?

Operating department practitioners might have the opportunity to specialise in different clinical specialities, or even to work across a wide variety of specialities.

You may also play an educational role, delivering training on clinical skills, resilience, and wellbeing to staff, students and learners.

For a good idea of the day in the life of an operating department practitioner, read this personal account from Jordan, an ODP at The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Delivering Exceptional Care Quality Standards

At Cairn Technology, we specialise in helping operating theatre teams improve efficiency and care quality standards.

In the operating theatre, the smallest thing can make a huge difference. For example, absorbent floor mats can collect all excess fluid during a procedure, and they can be simply picked up and discarded afterwards. So you’ll spend less time mopping between procedures, which will improve health and safety standards while also significantly cutting down on turnaround times.

We can provide expert advice on improving operational effectiveness in the theatre, as well as specialist consultation on effective infection control. Get in touch to talk to one of our friendly experts today.

Operating Theatre Staff Roles and Responsibilities

It takes a lot of people to run a successful operating theatre. The most efficient operating theatre is one in which everyone knows their own role and responsibilities, as this means that everyone can depend on everything being done that needs to be done.

In this post we’ll explore the various operating theatre staff roles, and the key responsibilities for each member of the team.

Outline of Operating Theatre Staff Rolls

Please note that this is a general list of operating theatre staff roles. Specific theatres might have specific roles, and many members of the team will share responsibilities as the situation demands. So please don’t treat this list as a definite hierarchy so much as an example of the sort of roles that could exist in your average operating theatre.

Operating Theatre Manager

The operating theatre manager oversees the theatre’s day-to-day operational issues. They will often manage multiple sites. Their responsibilities involve managing budgets and resources, as well as implementing risk management and health and safety policies.

As well as providing professional leadership to all theatre staff, they might lead on research projects and assess, develop, and implement new evidence-based programmes of care.

You can read our full guide to an operating theatre manager’s roles and responsibilities.

Operating Theatre Team Leader

Supporting the theatre manager, the team leader will directly lead the multidisciplinary theatre team, both professionally and clinically.

Their responsibilities will involve planning and organising workload and supervising the nursing staff. They may also provide clinical advice, and ongoing training and development in the use of specialist instruments and equipment.

The team leader will also oversee the maintenance of operating theatre equipment, which will include keeping on top of stock levels.

Theatre Practitioners

Nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists and other specialists. Responsible for undertaking or assisting in the highly skilled invasive medical procedures that take place in the controlled theatre environment.

As they carry out such delicate, high-pressure procedures, many would argue that the theatre practitioners are the most important of all the operating theatre staff.

However, as we’ll see, the practitioners depend on a huge team of support staff to ensure they can deliver the highest possible quality of care.

In an operating theatre, communication is key, and each member of the team must feel like they can depend on every other member of the team at all times.

Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs)

ODPs have a diverse range of skills across three main areas of the theatre:

  • Anaesthetics – While the anaesthetist works, the ODP will usually interact with the patient – talking to them and giving them whatever support they need to stay calm.
  • Scrub – While the theatre team is operating, the ODPs will ensure that all surgical equipment is readily available and adequately sterilised.
  • Recovery – ODPs will provide a lot of recovery support, including airway management, pain relief, and supervising patients as anaesthesia wears off.

Surgical Care Practitioners

Registered non-medical healthcare professionals who work with the surgical team to ensure the best outcome for the patient.

Before the operation, they will gather the patient’s medical history and perform an assessment. Throughout this process, they will liaise with the surgical team so as to inform them of any of the patient’s special requirements.

During procedures, they may be responsible for certain surgical interventions. These may include prepping the patient, assisting in haemostasis, and carrying out wound closure procedures.

Following the operation, they’ll assist in the patient assessments, and contribute to any meetings to discuss the patient’s ongoing care.

Recovery Practitioner

As the name suggests, recovery practitioners are there to oversee the patient’s recovery. Though their responsibilities begin before the procedure, as they usually assist the anaesthetist and ODP in supervising the patient.

Following the procedure, they’ll oversee advanced pain and airway management, and the ongoing monitoring of the patient for post-operative complications.

Support Workers

Finally, a team of support workers will carry out all the essential housekeeping duties and assist in any other activities essential to the smooth running of the operating theatre.

This might include maintaining the cleanliness of the theatre itself, as well as all ante rooms, changing rooms, kitchens, and sterilisation suites. They will also assist in stock management, keeping tabs on stock levels and ensuring that the team will always have everything they need, exactly when they need it.

Indeed, a good operating theatre support worker will be able to anticipate the requirements of the operating team, so they can give them the support they need before they even realise they need it.

Running an Efficient Operating Theatre

As we’ve seen, it takes a huge team of people to run a successful operating theatre.

Each member of the team needs to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. They should have fast access to exactly the equipment they need, and they should be able to depend on this equipment being in a safe and reliable condition.

Good communication is vital if such a large, multidisciplinary team is to function. Effective leadership can help create a culture in which each member of the team is perfectly aware of their role and responsibilities. But this is just one aspect of an efficient operating theatre.

Read our full guide to improving quality and efficiency in operating theatres.

Get Expert Advice Today

Whether you want a consultation on effective infection control, or some advice on improving operational effectiveness in the theatre, our experts are here to help.

Get in touch to talk to one of our expert consultants today.

What’s The Difference Between Electrosurgery and Electrocautery?

Electrosurgery and electrocautery seem like broadly similar processes, as both involve making use of electrical currents in surgical procedures, and both involve cauterising wounds to limit blood loss.

But despite their similar names, the two processes are actually highly distinct, and each is used to achieve a specific outcome in a surgical setting.

So in this post we’ll explain the difference between electrosurgery and electrocautery by exploring each process, in turn.

What is Electrosurgery?

Electrosurgery involves using an electrical current to cut, remove or destroy tissue while controlling bleeding. Electrosurgical equipment operates at high frequencies. During procedures, electrical currents are passed through an electrode that’s placed on or near the tissue – with the electrical current entering the patient’s body.

Electrosurgery is used to remove abnormal cells in the treatment or prevention of certain cancers. It can also be used to treat other skin conditions, including warts and moles.

What is Electrocautery?

Electrocautery involves using a direct or alternating current to destroy abnormal tissue, such as a tumour or a legion, or to control bleeding in an injury after surgery. The electrical current is used to heat an electrode which is then placed on or near the tissue, with no electrical current passing into the patient’s body.

What’s The Difference Between Electrosurgery and Electrocautery?

In electrosurgery, the electrical current enters the patient’s body. But during electrocautery processes, the current never enters the patient’s body. Electrosurgical equipment is also invariably more elaborate than electrocautery units. Electrocautery equipment can involve small, battery-powered devices. While these are usually reusable, they can also be disposable.

The Risks of Electrosurgery and Electrocautery

In electrosurgery, the patient forms part of the electrical current, so surgical teams will have to take special precautions before the procedure to ensure both staff and patient safety. But in electrocautery, the current flows through an electrode, generating heat instead. The surgeon then uses the direct transfer of heat to burn tissue or cauterise wounds.

However, as both processes involve using electrical currents and heat as part of delicate surgical procedures, both electrosurgery and electrocautery procedures can generate surgical plumes – or surgical smoke.

Surgical smoke can produce an immediate hazard for surgeons through obstructing their view of the surgical site. But a more pressing concern is that surgical plums can contain numerous toxic gases, particulates, viruses, bacteria and other harmful vapours.

One study found that surgical smoke contains acrylonitrile and hydrogen cyanide. These are volatile, colourless, and toxic chemicals that can be absorbed into the lungs through the skin and via the gastrointestinal tract. So exposure to surgical smoke has been linked to eye, nose and throat infections, coughs and nasal congestion, and asthma and asthma-like symptoms, including breathing difficulties.

Managing the Risks of Surgical Plumes

We have a couple of guides on our site to help you understand and manage the risks of surgical smoke:

Our workplace exposure monitoring will help you meet your COSHH obligations anywhere your staff and patients are exposed to hazardous substances in your hospital – such as surgical plumes. Get in touch to talk to an air purification expert today.

We also specialise in air purification in healthcare settings. Our Blueair Health Protect 7440i Air Purifier can completely filter the air in a room of up to 38m² 4.8 times per hour. Its advanced filters can trap and kill up to 99.9% of potentially harmful particles in the air, including viruses, bacteria, and the hazardous chemicals contained in surgical smoke.


Key Responsibilities for Operating Theatre Managers

Operating theatre managers are responsible for ensuring the successful running of the operating theatre environment.

But what does this actually involve? What does an operating theatre manager actually do?

In this post we’ll discuss some of the key responsibilities for operating theatre managers, while exploring ways managers can improve efficiency and care standards in their role.

Bear in mind: here we’re assessing an operating theatre manager’s general responsibilities. But for an idea of the specific challenges operating theatre managers may face today, be sure to read our guide to current issues in operating theatres.

What Are The Key Responsibilities for Operating Theatre Managers?

The operating theatre manager is responsible for most of the day-to-day operational issues within the operating department. They might be responsible for managing one department, or they might oversee operations across multiple sites.

Leadership, advice and communication
Operating theatre managers lead both medical and non-medical theatre staff. They provide professional leadership to the theatre teams, often providing professional and clinical advice regarding procedures and perioperative care, when necessary. At the same time, they’ll supervise all non-medical staff while promoting multidisciplinary teamwork and effective communication between team members at all levels.

Motivation and mentorship
A good operating theatre manager will focus on motivating and developing their team through providing mentorship, and through setting objectives and ensuring their delivery through personal development plans and appraisals.

Development and research
As well as developing their teams, the operating theatre manager will also work towards developing their departments. They might participate in research projects and research-based practice. They might also lead on the assessment, development and implementation of new evidence-based programmes for improved quality of care.

Budgeting, payroll and resource management
Finally, the operating theatre manager will supervise the administrative and logistical side of the operating theatre. This will involve overseeing the department’s budget and payroll, taking the lead on risk management and Health and Safety policies, and implementing resource management strategies. Operating theatre managers may also lead on developing effective infection prevention and control policies.

How Can Operating Theatre Managers Help Improve Quality and Efficiency in their Departments?

The NHS Productive Operating Theatre strategy recommends that operating theatre managers should commit to regular walk-arounds of the departments they oversee, as this can help them better understand the issues their frontline staff face each day.

Many operating theatre managers take such a hands-on approach. But it can be easy for some managers to lose sight of their department’s daily operations, particularly if they manage multiple sites.

Regular visits, along with regular discussions with staff, can help operating theatre managers get a reliable overview of their departments’ operational status. Areas of focus should include equipment availability and functionality, staff rotas, the number of cancellations and delays, and whether or not operating lists finish on schedule.

The NHS Productive Operating Theatre strategy also details how a well-organised theatre should run, with advice on improving patient preparation and turnaround. It also identifies seven key sources of waste in operating theatres. You can read our full guide to improving quality and efficiency in operating theatres here.

Investing in an Efficient Operating Theatre

Implementing resource management strategies is a key responsibility for an operating theatre manager. Operating theatre managers also oversee their department budgets, and a good manager will constantly seek ways they can invest their available funds to improve efficiency without compromising on quality of care.

The specific choice of equipment can make a huge difference to the department’s overall efficiency, but also to infection prevention and control – one of the major challenges operating theatre managers face in a post pandemic world.

This is one area where the smallest thing can make a significant difference. For example, high quality absorbent operating theatre floor mats can be simply picked up and discarded following procedures. This means that theatre teams will spend less time mopping between operations. So teams can significantly reduce the turnaround times between procedures while removing a major health and safety risk – slippery floors – all without compromising on hygiene standards.

At Cairn Technology, we specialise in helping operating theatre managers improve efficiency and care quality standards in their departments. Whether you want a consultation on effective infection control, or some advice on improving operational effectiveness in the theatre, our experts are here to help.

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

How to Perform Knee & Other Arthroscopies More Efficiently

Arthroscopy keyhole surgery procedures are highly effective at removing and repairing damaged tissues in joints. Though the process is most commonly used on the knees, you can also perform arthroscopies on hips, shoulders, wrists, elbows and ankles.

Key Risks Associated With Arthroscopies

As well as removing or repairing damaged sections of tissue, an arthroscopy procedure can involve using a sterile liquid to wash out damaged bits of tissue. Surgeons might also use sterile fluids to fill and expand the joint, to make the procedure easier to view.

This is where many surgeons encounter difficulties. Over the course of the procedure, there can be varying levels of fluids either applied to or discharged from the incision. Any fluid spilled on the operating theatre floor can create a range of problems:

Infection Risk of Knee Arthroscopies

 All bodily fluids can be a vector for infection. The longer any discharges from an incision remain in an area, the greater the risk of infection.

Slipping hazard of Arthroscopies

An operating theatre environment contains a vulnerable person (the patient) and lots of sharp objects and expensive equipment. Even a minor slip or fall could prove catastrophic.

Arthroscopy Inefficiency

Fluids on the floor of the operating theatre will need to be cleaned, which could increase the turnaround time between procedures.

How to Perform Knee & Other Arthroscopies More Efficiently

To perform knee and other arthroscopies more effectively, you need to focus on the fluid – which is arguably the biggest contributor to the risks and inefficiencies associated with the procedure. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to prevent fluid spillage entirely, as fluids are often an integral part of the procedure, while discharges are an inevitable by-product.

So instead, you should focus on capturing and containing fluids to prevent them from causing any further problems.

Managing Fluid in Knee Arthroscopies

We designed our DryMax Sterile Mats to help surgeons stay dry during arthroscopies. These 75 x 37cm mats can absorb up to 6 litres of water or 2.4 litres of saline, making them perfect for procedures like arthroscopies that involve heavy use of irrigation fluid.

Place the DryMax Sterile Mat next to the patient underneath the joint you’re operating on, and it’ll effectively capture the various drips and spills created by the procedure.

Not only will this keep both the patient and the surgeon drier and more comfortable during the arthroscopy procedure, it will also contribute to infection prevention and control while reducing the risk of slips.

Then, after the arthroscopy, you can simply dispose of the mat, which will help reduce turnaround times between operating procedures. So as well as making your procedure cleaner and safer, it can also help make your operating theatre as a whole run smoother and more efficiently.

It’s completely latex-free and you can use it flat, folded or rolled, depending on your needs.

Head here to learn more about how our DryMax Sterile Mats can help you perform knee and other arthroscopies more efficiently.

Want to discuss your theatre’s fluid collection requirements? Call 0333 015 4345 or email

Operating Theatre Temperature & Humidity Guidelines For Patient Safety and Infection Control

Good air ventilation is an integral part of effective infection control in operating theatres. But while it’s important to keep the air circulated, it’s equally important to ensure the air is at the optimum temperature and humidity.

Why is Temperature and Humidity Important in an Operating Theatre?

For temperature and humidity levels to be right, there are three crucial needs:

  1. To avoid humidity levels that could cause risks with the anaesthetic.
  2. To ensure that operating theatre staff can work comfortably and efficiently.
  3. Perhaps most crucially, to ensure the patient’s not so cold that they risk developing hypothermia or cardiac arrhythmia, but not so hot that they experience heat stress.

Both staff and patients will potentially spend many hours in an operating theatre environment. And while in the theatre, the staff will be undertaking intensive, high-pressure work, while the patient will be in a profoundly vulnerable state. So the temperature and humidity in an operating theatre needs to be just right.

Operating Theatre Temperature and Humidity Guidelines UK

The Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP) and The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have both issued guidelines for temperature and humidity control in operating theatres.

To best suit the needs of both staff and patient:

  • The temperature should be maintained between 18 and 25°C, varied within this range depending on the patient and the procedure.
  • The relative humidity should be 50%, to allow for tolerable working conditions for the long-term with no risk of anaesthetic issues.

NICE also outlines that theatre staff should measure a patient’s temperature every 30 minute during their operation, and that their temperature should be at least 21°C at any times when they’re not covered.

Other Safety Measures in Operating Theatres

Maintaining the correct temperature and humidity in the operating theatre is essential for both staff and patient safety.

But this is just one aspect of a safe and productive operating theatre. In addition to temperature control, the following measures are crucial:

Zoning for Infection Control

The theatre complex should be zoned based on cleanliness levels, the presence of microorganisms, and the types of procedures carried out. There must also be separate areas for all the key processes – preparation, disposal, scrubbing, gowning, and equipment storage, sterilisation, and washing.

Operating Theatre PPE

Staff should use the appropriate PPE for the procedure. They should apply their PPE in the correct order, and in a dedicated area, while thoroughly washing their hands at key points throughout the procedure. Also, any PPE they use should be properly fitted to ensure its effectiveness.

Equipment Cleaning

Any reusable surgical equipment should be thoroughly cleaned before use. And once processed, all surgical equipment must be correctly stored in a sterile environment, and not handled until it’s ready to be used on patients. Absorbent mats can also be used to capture fluids during procedures for quick disposal afterwards.

For more, you can read our complete guide to cleaning for infection control in operating theatres.

Support For Infection Control in Operating Theatres

It’s up to your hospital management and your theatre teams to maintain the optimum temperature and humidity settings in your theatre environments. But we can help you with many other aspects of infection prevention and control, helping you to meet all relevant standards while keeping your staff and patients as safe and as comfortable as possible.

Our services include:

  • Air purification consultations and solutions.
  • Face-fit testing.
  • Fluid management and washroom hygiene solutions.
  • Comprehensive infection control solutions, such as cleaning equipment and sanitising chemicals.

Get in touch to talk to our friendly team of expert infection control consultants and we’ll help you find a solution that works for you.


Why Is PPE So Important in Healthcare?

Personal protection equipment (PPE) is vital for effective infection prevention and control in healthcare. PPE protects both staff and patients from infection through acting as an effective barrier against common sources of infection such as coughs, sneezes, and bodily fluids.

PPE Protocols

But it’s not just the PPE itself that works to prevent infection. There are also key protocols associated with PPE, all of which are designed to reduce the risks of contamination. These include:

  • Storing all PPE in a clean and dry area, close to the point of use.
  • Ensuring all PPE is single-use only, unless specified by the manufacturer.
  • Putting on and taking off PPE in a specific order, with thorough hand-washing between each step.
  • Changing PPE immediately after seeing each patient, and immediately after each task or procedure.
  • Correctly disposing of all PPE immediately after use.

An Essential Introduction to PPE in Healthcare

Though certain medical procedures will call for specialist protective equipment, usually when we talk about PPE we’re referring to the following:

  • Scrubs
  • Gowns and aprons
  • Gloves
  • Footwear
  • Head covers for facial and head hair
  • Masks and face shields

There are specific guidelines for what type of PPE to use for each task. And as we mentioned above, there are separate guidelines for storing PPE, disposing of it, and putting it on and taking it off.

You’ll find many guides to PPE and its related protocols on our site:

What Is The Most Important PPE?

As different types of PPE are designed for different tasks, then really, no single piece of PPE is more or less important than any other. Some might argue that masks and face shields are the most important, as they can protect you from accidently ingesting bodily fluids during certain procedures, which can be a key source of infection. But if you’re handling caustic chemicals in the lab, a face covering won’t be as immediately useful as a good pair of gloves. So who’s to say which is the most important?

The importance of any given piece of PPE depends entirely on the task at hand. It’s also fair to say that any piece of PPE is only as good as the person using it.

If the equipment doesn’t fit properly, or if the person doesn’t follow the essential infection control protocols, then they might as well not have bothered wearing any PPE in the first place.

How Effective is PPE for Healthcare Workers?

In December 2021, the UK’s National Institute for Health Research released the results of a study into the effectiveness of PPE for healthcare workers.

The study specifically looked at PPE’s effectiveness in reducing the transmission of Covid-19 in health and social care settings. PPE might offer different levels of effectiveness when used to reduce the transmission of other pathogens.

The study accounted for numerous variables, including full-PPE use compared to partial use, the frequency and consistency of PPE use, and the impact of infection control training and education on transmission rates.

You can read the key findings of the study.

How Else Can You Prevent Infection in a Healthcare Setting?

PPE, and the protocols associated with its use, is just one of many standard infection control precautions in a healthcare setting. Other vital precautions include good hand hygiene, respiratory and cough etiquette, patient placement, and the correct management of equipment, linen, and waste.

You can read our complete guide to the standard infection control precautions.

How to Manage Infection Control

We offer many services and solutions that can help you manage infection prevention and control in your healthcare setting.

Our services include:

  • Air purification
  • Face-fit testing for PPE effectiveness
  • Workplace exposure monitoring services
  • Washroom hygiene solutions
  • Fluid management solutions
  • Cleaning equipment, disposal containers, and sanitising chemicals

So if you’d like some guidance on infection control, or a free quote for any of our services, get in touch to talk to an expert today.