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The Surgical Care Team: the Patient's Perspective

The RCS, with support from Health Education England, recently commissioned research into patients’ opinions on the remit of the extended roles of the surgical care team.


The research approach was both quantitative and qualitative. 200 randomly-selected members of the public took part in a telephone survey, of which 25% had undergone NHS operations in the last two years. Three focus groups were held with patients that had undergone surgical procedures in the last 12 months. One of these focus groups was conducted with patients whose operations had been performed by a Surgical Care Practitioner.


The messages from the public were, on the whole, overwhelmingly positive toward the surgical care team.

Patient research results

How do patients feel about the surgical care team?

There is strong support for the surgical care team

  • 86% of survey-respondents are positive when they hear about the extended remit of the surgical care team
  • Focus groups with recent experience of the NHS, including those under the care of a Surgical Care Practitioner who had performed their operation, were also positive about the experiences they had received from the surgical care team


Respondents believe the surgical care team offers many advantages to the health service and patients

  • 95% of respondents believe that the surgical care team will have a positive impact on patient care, and 64% believe that quality of care will be improved as a result. Focus groups believed this was the case because the practitioners become specialist in their area of focus and also provide better continuity of care.
  • 60% of respondents ‘strongly agree’ that the surgical care team can improve workload for surgeons
  • Focus groups believe the surgical team provided a ‘smoother process’ for the patient
  • 66% of respondents would rather have their operation done by a member of the surgical care team, than wait up to 8 weeks for the consultant surgeon

Most patients are comfortable with the surgical care team performing many tasks traditionally performed by doctors

  • 91% are happy for a supervised practitioner to be diagnosing patients, 67% would be comfortable for this to be done independently of doctors

What tasks do patients trust the surgical care team to carry out?

Most patients trust:

  • surgical care practitioners to assess and diagnose their symptoms (91%) and to carry out a minor surgical procedure (89%)
  • physician associates to carry out initial assessment and diagnosis (96%) and to manage their condition (91%)
  • advanced clinical practitioner to carry out initial assessment and diagnosis (91%)

How can the profession support patients’ understanding and trust of the surgical care team?

Patients are confused by the plethora of roles. However, they find it important that, regardless of the role, quality assurance is provided;

  • Over 90% of respondents consider qualifications and guarantees of competence important for those that assess, diagnose and operate. 72% would like to know the practitioner’s qualifications before treatment
  • 87% of respondents believe it is very important for members of the surgical care team to be regulated and 83% would like to be notified of whether the practitioner is regulated before treatment

Most patients want to be kept well informed about the care they will receive. Patients want to know:

  • which surgical care team members will be responsible for which parts of their care (58%)
  • which tasks will be supervised by a consultant (72%), and;
  • the level of supervision (71%)

Patients were reassured when all members of the surgical care team were supervised, either directly or indirectly, by the consultant surgeon.

What next?

We are launching guidance around best use of the roles within the surgical care team in November 2017 incorporating findings from the patient research.

Read more about our work including case studies from across the UK and key advice. 

Get involved:



Call 020 7869 6090 to speak to Jessica Cunliffe, Head of Support 

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