• audit;
  • behavioural change;
  • guidelines;
  • multi-modal approach;
  • post-operative assessment


Background  The Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) published Postoperative Management in Adults in 2004, advocating post-operative assessments to optimize post-operative care. Our aim was to improve post-operative assessments in a surgical high-dependency unit (HDU).

Methods  A prospective audit of post-operative admissions to surgical HDU over two 4-week periods was performed. Medical and nursing documentations were reviewed. A tailored multi-modal approach targeting specific barriers to change was used to implement changes; education of staff, introduction of designated HDU bleeps and a post-operative assessment pro forma. Re-audit was performed after 6 months.

Main findings  The first cycle included 72 patients and the second included 62 patients. Time to assessment improved after changes. Forty-six (74%) patients compared with 27 (37%) patients before were assessed within 4 hours. The number of individual reviews increased and number of reviews due to nursing concerns decreased. Thirty-eight (61%) patients compared with 15 (21%) patients before were assessed through an individual review and one (2%) patient compared with 23 (32%) patients due to nursing concerns. Documentation improved. Documentation of relevant past medical history, medications, allergies, complications and post-operative instructions improved from 2 (3%), 1 (1%), 0, 8 (11%) and 26 (36%), to 18 (29%), 28 (45%), 20 (32%), 18 (29%) and 55 (89%), respectively. Difference between first and second cycles was highly significant throughout (P < 0.001).

Conclusion  Clinical practice was improved by a tailored multi-modal approach. Educating staff, improving communication and documentation, and re-audit has shown significant improvement. However, further improvements are required to reach best practice.