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.

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.

Occupational Health Hazards for Nurses and How to Prevent Them

Hospitals and healthcare settings can be hazardous environments to work in. Nurses face multiple occupational health hazards every day – some obvious, others not so obvious.

In this post we’ll list some common occupational health hazards for nurses, and how to prevent them.

Slip, Trip and Fall Hazards in Hospitals

Slips, trips and falls are an occupational health hazard in most, if not all, working environments. And hospitals and healthcare settings are no exception. The difference is that slips, trips and falls in the healthcare sector can be particularly dangerous.

If nurses slip or trip while carrying delicate medical equipment, sharp instruments, hazardous samples or substances, or even trays of food, then they could cause some serious harm to themselves and others.

There may also be more slipping and tripping hazards in healthcare settings than in other workplaces, including spilled fluids, dropped or discarded gowns, clothing or bedding, and devices and equipment left out of place.

The Solution

Thorough and comprehensive cleaning procedures can ensure that tripping and slipping hazards are addressed before they cause any problems. Fluid management is an important area of focus. Unless spills are cleaned as soon as possible, surfaces can remain slippery for hours.

We stock a range of spill kits to help hospitals address chemical and cytotoxic spills promptly, thoroughly, and effectively.

We also stock absorbent floor mats for better fluid management during procedures. Capable of absorbing up to 8.5 litres of water and 3.5 litres of saline, they gel liquids and become dry to the touch. So they immediately remove slipping hazards in surgical environments. And following the procedure, you can simply dispose of them, allowing for faster cleaning and swifter turnaround times.

Infection & Contamination Hazards for Nurses

Nurses work very closely with both staff and patients, and they regularly provide support during treatments and procedures. So there’s a constant risk of infection from coughs, sneezes, and other bodily fluids. And if nurses become contaminated, there’s the risk they’ll pass on these infections to other, more vulnerable patients.

But these aren’t the only infection and contamination risks in healthcare settings. Nurses must also consider bacteria, viruses and other organisms lingering on clothing and surfaces; VOCs and other chemicals; particulate matter from outside sources; and radiation from certain devices and procedures.

The Solution

Standard infection control precautions can help nurses and other healthcare workers prevent and control infection risks at all levels. Precautions include thorough cleaning protocols and procedures; standards for PPE; good hand hygiene; cough and sneeze etiquette, and more.

Air quality consultations can also help nurses identify the sort of infection and contamination risks they might face, and the measures they can take to overcome them.

Finally, hospital-grade air purifiers can remove many of the common contaminants and harmful substances found in hospital air, including viruses, bacteria, microplastics, VOCs, particulate matter, and more. Our range of air purifiers for the healthcare sector can catch up to 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns.

Heavy Lifting in Healthcare Settings

Heavy lifting is another occupational risk that’s found in almost all healthcare settings. But once again, the risk for nurses can be particularly high. This is due to the sorts of items and objects that nurses might be required to move, from vulnerable patients to expensive and delicate medical devices.

Nurses risk sprains and back injuries whenever they move heavy objects. But if they struggle and falter while moving a vulnerable patient, there’s a risk of concussion, broken bones, or even death.

The Solution

Adequate training in safe lifting techniques can help nurses manage these risks. Hospitals and healthcare settings should also have procedures and protocols in place for moving vulnerable patients. These might include using wheelchairs, stretchers and trolleys wherever possible, and never attempting to move a patient without assistance.

Stress and Exhaustion

There’s no denying that nursing is a tough job. Nurses face life and death situations every day. They work long hours while under considerable pressure, and often for insufficient pay. And as the NHS is currently facing a treatment backlog and a series of strikes and industrial action, it seems like things have never been more difficult for nurses and other healthcare workers.

All of this pressure is going to take its toll. Stress and exhaustion can be harmful in itself. But in the long-term, constant stress and exhaustion can lead to a number of other more serious health conditions.

The Solution

Government plans to tackle the NHS backlog might reduce some of the pressures that nurses face in their roles. But even without the current issues the NHS faces, stress and exhaustion have been occupational hazards in the healthcare sector for years.

The Health Foundation issues a series of recommendations for fixing some of the problems the NHS is currently facing. They suggested that increasing staff numbers could increase hospitals’ capacity, which could mean shorter working hours and reduced workloads for nurses. They also suggested on-the-job mental health and wellbeing support for healthcare staff.

Addressing Occupational Health Hazards for Nurses

From spill kits to infection control services, we offer a range of products and solutions that will help you address many of the occupational health hazards nurses face.

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you make your healthcare setting safer and more efficient for staff and patients alike.

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.

Ambulance Cleaning and Decontamination Checklist

Regularly and thoroughly cleaning and decontaminating ambulances is essential for effective infection prevention and control.

Ambulance Cleaning and Decontamination Challenges

But there are several factors that make ambulance cleaning and decontamination challenging. It can be cramped inside an ambulance, and the sheer amount of equipment contained within can make quick cleans particularly difficult. Plus, ambulances also contain numerous delicate medical devices, which alcohol or chlorine-based disinfectants could easily damage.

But the biggest barrier to effective ambulance cleaning and decontamination is the need to keep downtime to a minimum. Ambulances are in high demand, and crews often use them in shifts. This leaves very little spare time for routine cleaning and decontamination.

How to Overcome Cleaning Challenges

So to overcome these challenges, ambulance services need to establish a cleaning procedure that is as fast and straightforward as possible. And at the same time, they must make use of cleaning products that run no risk of damaging or corroding any delicate equipment.

Ambulance Cleaning Checklist – An Example

Working to a checklist will help ambulance crews ensure they’re as thorough as possible in their limited windows for cleaning. A methodical approach will ensure that nothing gets overlooked during the cleaning and decontamination process.

Here’s an example ambulance cleaning checklist that covers all possible bases:

Door knobs and handles  
Door surface  
Patient bed  
Sitting couch  
Steering wheel  
Driver’s seat and other driving equipment  
Light switches  
Patient transfer trolley  
Other horizontal surfaces  
Walls and corners  
Cardiac monitor  
Leads (e.g. ECG)  
O2 Flowmeters  
ECG Machines  
Medicine Trolley  
Bed Sheets (Changed)  


Hand Hygiene and PPE

Cleaning the interior of the ambulance is a vital part of infection prevention and control. But between cleaning procedures, ambulance staff can adopt measures to reduce the risk of infection.

Good hand hygiene is just as important in the ambulance as it is in any other healthcare environment. Paramedics should wash their hands at five key points:

  • Before they touch a patient.
  • After they touch a patient.
  • After touching a patient’s immediate surroundings.
  • Before undertaking any clean or antiseptic procedures.
  • After any body fluid exposure risk.

Paramedics should follow a specific hand washing technique to ensure thorough cleanliness. And they should have access to effective antimicrobial hand sanitiser as close as possible to the point of care.

They should also wear the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) for the task at hand.

For more information about good practice for staff, read our full guide to standard infection control precautions.

Choosing the Correct Ambulance Cleaning Products

The choice of cleaning product can make a huge difference in ambulance cleaning turnaround time.

Virusolve®+ Wipes are an effective one-step solution. They clean, sanitise and disinfect surfaces at once, so there’s no need to prepare surfaces beforehand, or treat them afterwards.

They’re odourless, colourless, non-hazardous, non-irritant, non-flammable and non-corrosive, so they’re safe to use on even the most delicate medical equipment. They can be used on any surface, including carpets and upholstery, and as they’re hypo-allergenic there’s no risk of triggering reactions in patients.

Using absorbent mats for certain procedures in the ambulance can also help reduce downtime. Some brands of floor mat can absorb up to 8.5 litres of water or 3.5 litres of saline, whilst non-slip alternatives may still prove useful for smaller spills of fluid up to 2 litres. Then afterwards, you can simply dispose of the mat and apply a fresh one. This means you won’t have to spend so long cleaning spills on surfaces.

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you ensure your ambulance cleaning process is as fast, effective and thorough as possible.

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.

The Importance of Fluid Management in Burns Patients

Severe fluid loss following injuries is a major issue for burns patients – particularly if their injuries are substantial. Most treatments for burns involve fluid resuscitation procedures – which is one reason why effective fluid management is central to the treatment of burns patients.

Why Fluid Management Matters for Burns Patients

Good fluid management in burns patient is vital for three reasons:

  • The fluid management of major burns has a huge impact on the patient’s survival and recovery.
  • Excess or spilled fluids can cause a slipping hazard, as well as an infection risk.
  • The need to clean excessive fluids can increase the turnaround times between procedures, affecting the overall efficiency of the operating theatre.

Fluid Management Techniques for Burns Injuries

Fluid management procedures for major burn injuries are designed to maintain tissue perfusion while replacing intravascular fluid loss in order to prevent organ hypoperfusion and ischaemia. The nature of the procedure will depend on the extent and location of the patient’s injuries, as well as their age. Children and elderly patients may need more intensive treatment, for example.

Depending on the patient’s circumstances, fluid management will either be achieved via an intravascular procedure, or through enteral resuscitation with balanced salt solutions.

Practitioners use a variety of formulae when calculating the volume of resuscitation fluid to use when treating burns patients. These formulae take into account both the patient’s bodyweight and their burn surface area, though practitioners may use specific formulae when treating child patients to account for their higher surface area to mass ratio.

The resuscitation used in burn fluid management procedures is designed to restore plasma volume while minimising adverse effects, such as the risk of infection. Read our full guide to preventing infections in burns patients.

The Role of Sterile mats in Effective Fluid Management in Burns Patients

Absorbent mats can play a crucial role in effective fluid management in burns patients. They can help keep both staff and the treatment area dry, which means fewer slipping hazards, improved infection control, and a reduced turnaround time between procedures.

Cairn Technology’s  DryMax Sterile Mats can absorb up to 6 litres of water or 2.4 litres of saline. Place the DryMax Sterile Mat next to the burns patient during their fluid management procedure and it’ll effectively help to capture all the various drips and spills created by the procedure.

Then following the procedure, you can simply dispose of the mat in the appropriate waste channel. This will allow for faster and more effective cleaning between procedures. So, as well as making your procedure cleaner and safer, it can also help make your burns unit as a whole run smoother and more efficiently.

Our DryMax Sterile Mats are completely latex-free. You can use them flat, folded or rolled depending on your needs.

Head here to learn more about how our DryMax Sterile Mats can contribute to effective fluid management in burns patients while helping boost your theatre’s overall efficiency.

Want to try some samples of DryMax Sterile Mats or to discuss your theatre’s fluid collection requirements? Call 0333 015 4345 or email


Disposable Absorbent Mats: Inco Pads vs. T-Mat

Inco pads have long been the preferred solution for fluid control during certain hospital procedures.

What is an Inco Pad?

Despite the name (“inco” is short for “incontinence”), inco pads are no longer widely used for managing incontinence. Instead, they’re used as “procedure underpads”, to provide a temporary protective layer during procedures.

What Are Inco Pads Used For?

Practitioners use inco pads to protect laundry, furniture and equipment in clinical settings during certain fluid-intensive procedures. As a Standard Infection Control Precaution (SICP), this helps prevent cross-contamination.

Practitioners also use inco pads on floors to soak up fluid spills. This helps prevent slips and trips, the most common cause of injury in all workplaces. And because the pads are disposable, they can help reduce cleaning time and, by extension, turnaround time between procedures. So in a small yet significant way, procedure underpads can make the hospital as a whole more efficient.

The Problem With Inco Pads

Despite their relative ubiquity in healthcare settings, inco pads are by no means the most effective solution for fluid control during procedures.

This is because:

  • Slippery backing
    Some inco pads feature a waterproof backing which can be slippery, especially when wet. So instead of preventing slips and trips, some inco pads can become slip hazards themselves.
  • Can’t handle high volumes of fluid
    Inco pads areabsorbent, but only to a point. They may not have the capacity to manage high volumes of fluids, so they may not be suitable for certain procedures. Inco pads also tend to drip when lifted, meaning that the floor then needs to be mopped after use and cross-infection risks are more likely.
  • Potential source of infection
    There are concerns that inco pads may act as a potential source of infection through recycled cellulose. Though studies show the risk may be minimal if practitioners use the products as directed, they may still pose a minor risk for immunocompromised patients.

T-Mats – Advanced Fluid Management for All Procedures

If you are looking for a more absorbent solution that won’t drip, the T-Mat is a good alternative. It is the most absorbent floor mat on the market, capable of absorbing up to 8.5 litres of water or 3.5 litres of saline. This makes it perfect for use in operating theatres, though it’s also suitable for use in other settings, including maternity wards and burns units.

Within minutes the T-Mat gels liquids, becoming dry to the touch. It binds the fluid hygienically, so you can dispose of it in the clinical waste without any dripping. And because they’re more absorbent, you’ll likely only have to use one T-Mat for each procedure. On the other hand, you may have to plough through numerous inco pads during some procedures, which will slow you down while creating far more waste than necessary.

Also, where the waterproof backings of inco pads can present a slip hazard, T-Mats are non-slip and absorb fluid from below as well as above. So, as well as absorbing more liquid for more effective infection control, they’re also more effective at improving health and safety in the clinical environment.

Watch this short 46 second video to see how a T-Mat rapidly absorbs fluid and turns it to gel:

T-Mats – Try Before You Buy

T-Mats are exclusively available from Cairn Technology. These 72x36cm mats are available in packs of 100, so a single pack goes a long way.

Want to see for yourself how the T-Mat can dramatically improve cleanliness and efficiency during procedures? Then get in touch to request some samples. Then you can experience first-hand how the T-Mat compares to your current fluid management solution in terms of cost and performance.

To request some T-Mat samples, call us on 0333 015 4345. One of our representatives can even be on-hand in the theatre, to help you make the most of your sample T-Mat during your trial procedure.


How to Increase Efficiency and Reduce Infection in Shoulder Arthroscopies

A shoulder arthroscopy is a form of keyhole surgery that can both diagnose and treat problems in the shoulder. Used to treat injuries and chronic conditions such as arthritis, it involves making small cuts in the skin before using a tiny camera – the arthroscope – to identify problems and guide any repairs.

Key Challenges Associated with Shoulder Arthroscopies

Like all surgical procedures, arthroscopies carry an infection risk for both staff and patient.

Chest Infections

If the patient’s a smoker, for example, they may have an increased risk of getting a chest or wound infection, while the surgeon may encounter certain complications during the procedure.

Surgical Site Infections

Even if the patient is not a smoker, there will still be the risk of surgical site infection, whereby micro-organisms might enter the body and multiply in the tissues.

Also, all bodily fluids can act as a vector for infection. The longer any discharges from an incision remain in an area, the greater the risk of infection.

Saline and Bodily Fluid Spills

Finally, during shoulder arthroscopy procedures, surgeons may inject saline to help them get a clearer view of the area. Heavy use of fluid during a procedure, combined with spilled bodily fluids, can create a serious hazard in the theatre environment.

Increasing Efficiency and Reducing Infection During Shoulder Arthroscopies

A few initiatives can help with infection prevention and control in operating theatre environments:

Beyond this, increasing efficiency and reducing infection during shoulder arthroscopies is largely a question of effective fluid control.

Effective Fluid Control During Shoulder Arthroscopies

Saline fluids are an integral part of the shoulder arthroscopy procedure. Some spills are inevitable. However, with the right equipment you can effectively capture and contain any fluids spilled during the procedure to increase cleanliness, reduce infection risk, and improve your turnaround time between procedures.

Reduce Spills & Stay Dry

Sterile absorbent mats are specifically designed to help surgeons stay as dry as possible during shoulder arthroscopies and other procedures, while reducing infection risk.

For example, Cairn Technology’s DryMax Sterile absorbent mats are 75 x 37cm and absorb up to 6 litres of water or 2.4 litres of saline. This makes them perfect for procedures that involve heavy use of irrigation fluid – particularly shoulder arthroscopies, in which it is common for patients to be positioned in such a way that makes spillages more likely.

By simply placing the DryMax Sterile Mat next to the patient, underneath the shoulder joint you’re operating on, it will then effectively capture all the various drips and spills created by the procedure, whether that’s excess saline or bodily fluids. This simple yet effective solution will keep both the patient and the surgeon drier and more comfortable during the arthroscopy procedure.

Improve Turn-Around Time

After the procedure, you can simply dispose of the DryMax Sterile mat in the appropriate waste channel. This will help significantly reduce turnaround times between procedures, helping make your operating theatre as a whole run smoother and more efficiently.

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

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