Just over 300,000 publicly funded surgical operations are performed in New Zealand each year. Patients undergoing surgical intervention are at increased risk for complications and death.

Even routine surgery requires the complex coordination of surgeons, anaesthesia providers, nurses and support staff to provide timely and effective care – we are developing improved ways for these teams to work together to make this process as safe as possible.


The programme aims to reduce harm during the perioperative period by encouraging teams to consistently apply evidence-based practices and safety checks to all patients, and by improving teamwork and communication.

The programme objectives are to:

  • improve patient safety culture through better teamwork and communication

  • improve teamwork and communication of surgical teams through briefings, the use of all three parts of the World Health Organization Surgical Checklist and debriefings

  • establish and develop a perioperative harm network that supports the programme objectives and long term sustainability of patient safety and quality improvement work

  • provide expert advice and strategic thinking on improving the safety of the perioperative environment through horizon scanning, assessing evidence-based interventions and contributing to other programmes.

This perioperative harm driver diagram breaks down the overall goal for the programme into underpinning goals (‘drivers’) and actual change initiatives that will be undertaken.

The programme is being implemented in three workstreams:

  • teamwork and communication
  • measurement
  • expert advice and strategy.

The Safe Surgery NZ Advisory Group guides and supports the programme and is used by the team to review advice and guidance where required. At times, other Commission programmes and external stakeholders approach the programme for advice.  

Last updated 03/10/2018