Charity-funded innovation project helps patients prepare for surgery

05 January 2022

Charity-funded innovation project helps patients prepare for surgery
In the hours before an operation, eating and drinking at the right time can make a big difference to a patient’s recovery after surgery.

Following fasting guidance for about six hours before a procedure is the perfect amount - but patients often fast for much longer, which can cause unnecessary discomfort and extend their time in hospital.

Now, with funding from Imperial Health Charity, a team of experts at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is using behavioural science to help patients fast more effectively in the run-up to an operation.

By improving patient information and providing special guidance for healthcare professionals, the team hopes to ‘nudge’ patients towards making the best possible decisions ahead of their surgery.

"As a patient, the best thing you can do before an operation is to be as well-nourished and well-hydrated as possible when you walk through the hospital doors."

Michelle Knapper, Clinical Review and Elective Patient Experience Lead at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

“As a patient, the best thing you can do before an operation is to be as well-nourished and well-hydrated as possible when you walk through the hospital doors,” said Michelle Knapper, Clinical Review and Elective Patient Experience Lead at the Trust.

“But what we’ve found is that patients don’t always understand why they’re fasting or how this helps them prepare for surgery.

“We know that patients have busy lives and can be anxious in the run-up to an operation. So if we can focus on making them aware of the benefits of proper fasting, we believe it will help them arrive for their operation with the best possible preparation.”

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The team will be testing a new patient information checklist, which has been carefully developed using insights from behavioural science and co-designed with patients. They will also work closely with nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists to provide additional guidance on how to advise patients about fasting.

In the longer term, the insights drawn from the project could help the team extend better fasting information to all stages of the patient journey.

“What this work has shown us is a route map for longer-term implementation and that we can apply behavioural science lessons to other patient information,” said Darshan Patel, Sustainability and Improvement Programme Manager at the Trust.

“Through this initial project, we can encourage others to learn from our approach and improve other forms of patient information.”

Other members of the project team include Jo Fisher (Deputy Divisional Director of Nursing) and Sep Nouri (Divisional Project Co-ordinator).

This project was funded by a grant from Imperial Health Charity’s Innovate at Imperial programme. If you’re a member of staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, you may be eligible to apply for funding to support a project. You can click here to find out more.