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Professional standards and guidance to help improve surgical practice in your area

22 Feb 2018

Mr Peter Lamont is the Royal College of Surgeons Council lead for standards and guidance

The Royal College of Surgeons is involved with the development of surgical standards in just about everything it does. Not only do surgeons look to the College for Photo of Mr Peter Lamontguidance, but the public also expect surgeons to maintain the highest possible standards, whether in their training, their examinations or in their professional behaviour. Whilst the Specialist Associations remain responsible for guidance on specialty specific issues, there remain large areas of generic skills and practice which are relevant to all surgeons and where the College seeks to raise the bar. 

The College strapline reads “Advancing Surgical Care” and was devised very much with the development and maintenance of standards in mind. As a College, we aspire to be the go to source for surgeons, the public and the media both when things go wrong in surgical practice and when new developments influence the way surgery is performed. It can be difficult to assess the effectiveness of surgical performance or initiatives unless there is a standard to compare them against, and that is where the Professional Standards section of the College has its role. 

A written standard, approved by the College Council, can be a powerful tool for change. Surgery today is practised in a complex environment, with many competing interests all requesting their share of limited resources. Individual surgeons may struggle to persuade hospital managers to release resources towards improving surgical care, but where they can show a national (or international) recommendation, written with the full weight of the College behind it, they have a powerful tool for persuasion. At a higher level, the College standards also have an input into decisions made by our regulators and politicians when devising national health strategies.

The College currently has over 100 standards and guidance documents and associated resources available on the website (see our good practice guidance page and our wider publications page) many of which might be considered to be on niche topics, but some of which have had widespread impact and interest. Such recent documents include “Duty of Candour”, “Consent” and “Good Surgical Practice”, all of which have been well received and widely read. Much of our guidance is also available in different formats, such as e-learning modules and podcasts, alongside downloadable templates and checklists.

The development of standards follows a set process and robust methodology that allows the College to offer surgeons, surgical teams, providers and commissioners consistent, evidence-based advice on what constitutes good practice in surgery.  The selection of topics for a written standard or guide tries to be as relevant to current surgical practice as possible, and is often based on requests from individuals or groups for up to date guidance on recent initiatives. An example is the soon to be published guidance on the role of the Surgical Care Team, in line with the College’s recent recognition of the valuable and increasing role played by surgical care practitioners and operative assistants in modern surgical practice, inviting them to become associates of the College.

As with all such publications, their value is limited if nobody reads them or uses them to improve surgical care, so dissemination of their existence is an important activity of the College, through the website, podcasts, YouTube videos and regional meetings, not forgetting also this blog! Please do let us know if there is an area you would like to see the College developing professional standards or guidance documents to help you improve surgical practice in your area.

Take a look at all of the standards and guidance the Royal College of Surgeons has produced. 

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