BMJ Qual Improv Report 6: doi:10.1136/bmjquality.u209155.w3729
  • BMJ Quality Improvement Programme

The Value of a Surgical Assessment Unit Ultrasound Facility

  1. Anthony Lambert
  1. Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust
  1. Correspondence to Wesley Lai wesley_lai{at}
  • Received 10 August 2015
  • Revision requested 21 October 2015
  • Revised 16 March 2017
  • Published 27 April 2017


Ultrasound scan (USS) is a common and important mode of investigation for emergency surgical admissions. Delay in investigation often leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment, and possible extended length of stay (LOS), which has clinical, cost and service provision implications. We aim to investigate the clinical impact on patient care and the cost-effectiveness of a pilot Surgical Assessment Unit (SAU) USS facility. We performed a retrospective data collection on 100 consecutive SAU inpatients who had an USS investigation on the ward since the introduction of the facility, matched by 100 consecutive SAU inpatients who had an USS in the radiology department before the pilot study. Results of the audit show SAU USS has a reduced mean LOS by 1.44 days compared to departmental USS, and led to more same day discharge than departmental USS (20 vs. 5), thus avoiding unnecessary overnight stay. It also significantly reduced mean waiting time from admission to investigation by 5.21 hours, which can be translated into improved patient and staff satisfaction. All these findings are both statistically and clinically significant. The estimated cost of each SAU USS is comparable to the average departmental USS (£29.71 vs. £30.80). Using the average cost of an excess bed day = £273, SAU USS has produced an estimated saving of £394.72/patient. This does not include saved opportunistic costs such as prevented elective operation cancellations, fines incurred from surgery waiting time/A+E breaches etc. To conclude SAU USS has a significant positive impact on patient care in surgical admissions by reducing LOS and investigation waiting time, as well as facilitating same day discharge.

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