Safety, productivity and predicted contribution of a surgical task‐sharing programme in Sierra Leone. BJS 2017; 104: 1315-1326.

Published: 18th May 2017

Authors: H. A. Bolkan, A. van Duinen, B. Waalewijn, M. Elhassein, T. B. Kamara, G. F. Deen et al.


Surgical task‐sharing may be central to expanding the provision of surgical care in low‐resource settings. The aims of this paper were to describe the set‐up of a new surgical task‐sharing training programme for associate clinicians and junior doctors in Sierra Leone, assess its productivity and safety, and estimate its future role in contributing to surgical volume.


This prospective observational study from a consortium of 16 hospitals evaluated crude in‐hospital mortality over 5 years and productivity of operations performed during and after completion of a 3‐year surgical training programme.


Some 48 trainees and nine graduated surgical assistant community health officers (SACHOs) participated in 27 216 supervised operations between January 2011 and July 2016. During training, trainees attended a median of 822 operations. SACHOs performed a median of 173 operations annually. Caesarean section, hernia repair and laparotomy were the most common procedures during and after training. Crude in‐hospital mortality rates after caesarean sections and laparotomies were 0·7 per cent (13 of 1915) and 4·3 per cent (7 of 164) respectively for operations performed by trainees, and 0·4 per cent (5 of 1169) and 8·0 per cent (11 of 137) for those carried out by SACHOs. Adjusted for patient sex, surgical procedure, urgency and hospital, mortality was lower for operations performed by trainees (OR 0·47, 95 per cent c.i. 0·32 to 0·71; P < 0·001) and SACHOs (OR 0·16, 0·07 to 0·41; P < 0·001) compared with those conducted by trainers and supervisors.


SACHOs rapidly and safely achieved substantial increases in surgical volume in Sierra Leone.

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