Rescue for Emergency Surgery Patients Observed to uNdergo Acute Deterioration

  • End date
    Feb 28, 2026
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Oxford
Updated on 16 June 2021


This is a Five Year programme designed to identify and evaluate human factors interventions to improve the response to patients deteriorating following emergency surgery.

The programme comprises four work packages:

Work Package 1: Qualitative interviews and observations to analyse current rescue systems; Work Package 2: Identify and co-design interventions to improve rescue systems,involving both staff and patients and carers; Work Package 3: Mixed-methods feasibility trial across 3 sites in England, Work Package 4: Step-wedge randomised control trial based across 24 hospital sites in England, evaluating efficacy of interventions in improving response to deteriorating patients.


Patient safety researchers study problems in healthcare systems which harm patients. The investigators wish to study a healthcare situation where system problems are costing lives. In Emergency General Surgery (EGS), dealing mainly with patients with severe abdominal pain, the death rate after abdominal surgery to find out what's wrong (called 'laparotomy') is 5 times higher than for similar routine surgery. Studies of serious complications after major operations show that when patients deteriorate after surgery, their chances of survival depend on how quickly and how well clinical teams react. The investigators plan to analyse how EGS teams currently treat deteriorating patients, and help them develop and test better response systems. Up to 3000 deaths per year could be avoided if these systems were improved . Human Factors science analyses how complex work systems succeed or fail, and how to improve them. The investigators will conduct a Human Factors analysis of real life responses to deterioration in EGS laparotomy patients, examining how staff actually deal with deteriorating patients (referred to as "work as done"), and how this differs from official guidelines (referred to as "work as imagined"). A modern approach to Human Factors called "Safety II" studies both strengths and weaknesses of systems to design solutions. The investigators will use this method to analyse current EGS rescue systems, and develop a new system for managing deterioration, including ways of involving patients or carers effectively. The investigators will test and modify this system until it can be shown that it improves team performance during rescue. Once it appears stable and effective, the investigators will test it in a multi-hospital trial. Hospitals will start using the new system at different dates (decided by chance), and the investigators will compare their performance before and after they start.

The investigators will study the cost-effectiveness of the intervention and analyse what worked well and why, to make sure the lessons are learned effectively.

Condition Emergencies [Disease/Finding], Failure to Rescue
Treatment FRAM Model and Human Factors/Quality Improvement Intervention
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04919720
SponsorUniversity of Oxford
Last Modified on16 June 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Senior Medical staff in EGS and in other departments and disciplines with important roles in rescue (Anaesthetics, Gastroenterology, Interventional Radiology, Intensive Treatment Unit)
Junior medical staff in EGS (First Year 1 and 2, Core trainee and Surgical Trainee 3 + grades)
Senior nursing staff in EGS and other relevant departments (Theatres, Intensive Treatment Unit/outreach)
Recovered patients or their carers

Exclusion Criteria

Patients lacking mental capacity
Patients who cannot communicate in English AND for whom translation facilities cannot be secured
Patients with documented PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) related to their experience of complications after laparotomy
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