Safe surgery: the next global healthcare imperative?

11 Oct 2018 3min read

A recent LinkedIn in post led me to read a thought-provoking report called ‘Global Surgery 2030’ published in The Lancet.

The report highlights the need to provide access to safe surgery in developing countries. The report refers to ‘safe surgery’ as:

• Available surgeons and nurses
• Access to facilities offering sterile equipment
• Access to adequate anaesthesia

In 2010, an estimated 16,9 million lives (32,9% of all deaths worldwide) were lost from conditions needing surgical care. This figure well surpassed the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. The Lancet

The Lifeline Express is a surgical initiative meant to provide safe surgery; a hospital train that travels through India carrying out major surgeries to restore movement, hearing, sight and the correction of clefts. After 25 years, this amazing project is still going and as of 2010, 600,000 people living in rural areas have benefited from it.

Mercy Ships is a similar initiative. They offer surgery on-board ships that travel to some of the poorest countries combined with off-ship initiatives to improve local healthcare in the longer term.

The Lifeline Express, Mercy Ships and many others, provide benefits to many patients over a long time period; but relative to the scale of the problem identified in The Lancet report, they are a drop in the ocean. What is needed in developing countries are resources that are accessible by people in rural areas on an ongoing basis. A pregnant mother who needs an emergency caesarean section cannot wait for the next train or ship.


Safe surgery is not specific enough to become a rallying call for charitable campaigns. Individual diseases such as malaria or natural disasters are more natural focal points. Lack of access to safe surgery is affecting 5 billion people. Additional safe surgery will save lives and bring economic benefit, yet comparatively little is done to address the issue. The Lancet report is a good step change in the development of safe surgery and has the potential to bring this issue at the forefront of the global health dialogue.

Iain leads the surgical activities at Team. He has over 30 years of experience in developing products across diverse business sectors. His skills range from the strategic and commercial to the technical and practical. Iain has worked on and led numerous surgical device development projects, including energy devices, single-use, reusable and complex surgical robotics systems.

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