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AfPP Conference Review 2023 – 10-12 August, York University

Released on - 12/10/2023

AfPP Conference Review 2023 – 10-12 August, York University

This year’s theme was “A Profession to be Proud of”.

I was very fortunate to have won 2 sponsored places for the AfPP conference and invited a second year student ODP from my hospital along. Thursday night saw the traditional Speed Education sessions and this year, these included optimisation of surgical trays, digital training solutions and the eternal debate on single use v reusables with surprising (to me) findings that single-use options could be better for the environment. They also introduced us to plant-based surgical gowns and mayo covers eg. made from sugar beet and no more expensive than current ones!


The Friday sessions I picked were on sustainability and theatre waste, and Nigel Roberts presenting quantitative research from NHS England on surgical safety, Natssips2, human factors and never events - the latter two being topics I had researched for my BSc. dissertation and still fascinate me. The afternoon session included an inspiring talk from Dr Imran Ahmad, who gave an incredible presentation and discussion of his HIT List initiative. HIT stands for High Intensity Theatre lists – and the results are astonishing. One example – 2 theatres with one surgeon going between the two and reducing their non-operating time, recounted lists where over 30 patients had procedures in one day. The teamwork and organization involved were very inspiring and as 85% of waiting list patients could be Day Cases, you can imagine the possibility of significant impact on waiting lists and backlogs.


The Friday evening networking and entertainment were much jollier than last year, with fortunately no monarchs passing away during this conference. The ODP version of Blankety Blank was great fun, even though there seemed to be slightly fewer delegates and exhibitors this year: perhaps as it was August – and not September as last year? The exhibition hall was still full of new innovations, new kit, and futuristic ideas. I loved the fluorescent ‘greener’ swabs and the sustainable cardboard kidney dishes and equipment packaging. The freebies were again top notch with sustainability featuring high on everyone’s agenda. We were treated to desk-top plants and seeds instead of plastic items. (Attached below is a pic of my thriving Mölnlycke desktop plant.)


Naturally, there were lots of pens, but alas, no ’Operation’ game race this year. However, the Royal College of Surgeons England had a scavenger hunt with excellent chocolate prizes and reusable hot drink glasses with non-plastic holders. I heard there were free dog-tags, but rookie error I was too late! There was an ‘I’m a celebrity – get me out of here’ inspired guess-the-surgical-instrument challenge, where the instruments were placed in boxes filled with straw (thankfully not bugs!) and you had to pop your hand in to feel them. I understand one of our Theatre Managers, Rhys, won a prize as he did particularly well in this challenge and got one of the fastest times of the weekend.


The Saturday sessions included a fascinating talk by Patrick Voight on the use of AI in the perioperative setting. This was a revelation to us and exciting to see how theatre scheduling and on-call staff arrangements could be made more efficient. The demonstration showed how the AI software could triangulate data from local weather stations, local news and local sports and entertainment events eg. to give an effective model and means of communicating to the on-call staff at what time they should aim to be prepared to come in! Theatre scheduling is vastly different in the USA, but the demonstration showed technology that could assist speeding up replacement surgeons when lists are cancelled, suggest from patient lists and health info who is suitable for their procedures at that time and notify everyone when the space is accepted. This could be a game-changer.


The most interesting session of the weekend for me was Dr Achuthan Sajayan when he spoke about Difficult Airways and learning from incidents – including cases studies of patients up to 2020. These can have tremendous impact on practice and safety, and as a newly qualified ODP, these learning outcomes will stay with me and improve safety and quality of care.

The AfPP conference included many other sessions and thankfully more spaces in the ever-popular surgical skills workshops. There were sessions on Surgical Plume, Elective recovery programmes, psychological safety, kindness, and many others, and the format of being able to choose sessions and watch others online post-event, mean this is valuable CPD as well as keeping you up to date on current debates and new tech. I highly recommend joining the AfPP as a student, it is very reasonable in cost (two coffees a month) and they have many free webinars and events, in addition to the great resources on the website. They also have an opportunity each year to enter competitions to win places at conference too, and as last year, this is for two tickets so another student or newly qualified ODP could go too.


Lisa Donaldson JP. BSc. RODP.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

Darlington Memorial Hospital Theatres.

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