A vital part of the surgical team

Better training is being developed for surgical assistants, says Dawn Stott

Better training is being developed for surgical assistants, says Dawn Stott.


The traditional surgical workforce has changed – and it continues to do so.

With a reduction in the number of junior doctors available to support the delivery of surgery, educating non-medical surgical assistants is now the way to resource consultant-led surgical teams to ensure safe care in theatres.

It is 25 years since the Oxford Heart Centre appointed the first British nurse to be formally trained as a non-medically qualified surgical assistant. The number of nurses and allied health professionals undertaking surgical roles has increased to make up the shortfall in the surgical workforce.

There are two main levels of surgical assistant: surgical care practitioner (SCP) and surgical first assistant (SFA).

An SCP is a registered non-medical practitioner in an advanced role, who has completed a master’s level programme accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons, or other previously recognised course, working in clinical practice as a member of the extended surgical team. The SCP performs surgical intervention, pre-operative care and post-operative care under the direction and supervision of a consultant surgeon.

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This article was first published in print in Nursing Standard: volume 30, issue 24

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