Acute theatre whiteboard

Acute theatre whiteboard


  • Improve communication between surgical teams and the operating theatres by displaying a real-time list of patients booked for emergency surgery
  • Improve the timeliness of care for patients needing emergency surgery by displaying their maximum allowed waiting time
  • Improve patient care and use of theatre resources by displaying the workload for the day
  • Measure theatre performance and workload over time to allow for improvements in patient care and use of theatre resources


    Historically our acute theatre waiting lists were managed using paper booking forms and a whiteboard that staff updated manually. While this whiteboard displayed the list of patients waiting for surgery, it did not allow us to easily see:

    • how long each patient had been waiting for surgery
    • the total workload for the day

    By creating an electronic whiteboard, and linking it with the new electronic theatre booking form, we would be able to see all of this information accurately and in real-time.

    Other important features of an electronic system are that it would allow us to:

    • continuously and easily measure the quality of patient care
    • audit our waiting lists

    What did we do?

    We consulted staff to determine what information they would need displayed on the whiteboard. The whiteboard screen has limited space so the design was carefully planned to make the best use of this space. We spent a lot of time understanding our information systems to make sure that the information we display is accurate.

    We knew that we could improve communication with this new system. We introduced new emergency priority scores for patients needing emergency surgery. These set a maximum time by which each patient needs to have their surgery. It was important to create a system that displays the patient’s priority score and how long they have been waiting, to ensure that every patient receives timely surgical care.

    Example of patient waiting list on acute theatre whiteboard
    Example of patient waiting list on acute theatre whiteboard

    Did we make a difference?

    • Feedback from acute theatre staff about the whiteboard has been very positive and communication between surgical teams and the operating theatres has improved
    • The ability of surgical teams to see the whole theatre workload (and compare this to the time available) is leading to improved planning of surgeries and improvements to patient care

    Where to from here?

    The next steps are:

    1. Place theatre whiteboard screens in the operating theatres so that surgeons can see the workload in real-time and plan patient care in a timely manner
    2. Link the theatre whiteboard with the electronic ward whiteboards so that ward nurses can easily see their patient’s expected time for theatre, and prepare patients for theatre in time for their operation
    3. Display estimated times that patients will be in theatre based on historical records of how long particular operations take, and how long it takes to transport a patient from the ward or emergency department to theatre
    4. Display the theatre workload for the day throughout the hospital so that patients who are due to have surgery later in the day can have a meal
    5. Use this information to improve communication to patients and their families about the timing of their surgery

    This project forms part of our overarching Acute Theatre Redesign programme.

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