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“I would be happy to be treated this way if this patient were me or a member of my family.”

Clare MarxWe share the privilege of working as a surgeon with the responsibilities, the joys and disappointments that this brings. As surgeons we understand the fulfillment of delivering a successful outcome, and the humility and strength required when surgery goes wrong or is unlikely to be a patient’s best option. We are all human, we all make mistakes and so we all benefit from guidance. We are fortunate; our profession is still respected and held in high esteem. Our behaviours and attitudes are observed by those we work alongside and impact directly on the care we deliver to our patients.

The challenge of providing compassionate, high quality, safe care is at the top of our professional agenda. This document provides guidance as we address this challenge and highlights skills needed by a highly performing surgeon in today’s ever more demanding environment.

The recent publication of national outcomes data means that surgery has led the way in transparency, openness and greater accountability. This document reaffirms and sets out surgeons’ commitment to personal responsibility and to the continuous improvement of quality of care and of patient safety.

Good Surgical Practice aims to be a base line of clear and assessable standards for individual surgeons and their practice. It is not a statutory code or a regulatory document but rather seeks to exemplify the standards required of all doctors by the GMC in the context of surgery. It represents the profession’s core values, the skills and attitudes that underpin surgical professionalism to which all surgeons should aspire in order to deliver high quality care.

No matter where you work, within the NHS, independent or voluntary sector these statements of principle are applicable to all surgeons, regardless of grade. We hope they will provide you all with guidance and support as you reflect on your work and set yourselves goals. You should use your professional judgment to apply these principles in practice. Good Surgical Practice specifies for surgery those overarching GMC standards as set out in Good Medical Practice 2013, which you will all use as an integral part of your appraisal and the revalidation process.

The emphasis of this document is on collaborative working, particularly with patients as active participants in decisions about their care, rather than simply as passive recipients of care.

Surgery, as we all know, is not a solitary activity. Patient safety and good practice certainly depend on the individual surgeon, but also on effective teamworking both within the surgical team and the wider multidisciplinary team. Maintaining effective relationships with non-clinical management is also critical. Some statements in the document focus on improving organisational systems and services and require the collaboration of the surgeon’s employing organisation and the wider operating team to be met in full. The aim of such statements is an expectation that surgeons will demonstrate leadership by engaging positively with their organisations’ efforts to improve care delivery.

All the Surgical Royal Colleges and the Surgical Specialty Associations have collaborated, given freely of their advice and contributed generously to this document. I thank them all for giving of their time and expertise. My hope is that the new Good Surgical Practice will guide all surgeons as we advance surgical standards and travel that road, seeking to develop our professionalism to meet current demands.

Clare Marx CBE DL PRCS
The Royal College of Surgeons of England

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