Volume 7, No. 3 • Fall 1992

International Standards for Safe Practice Endorsed by WFSA

J. S. Gravenstein, M.D.

From time to time this Newsletter has published reports from other countries describing efforts to enhance safety in anesthesia. The World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA) has also identified patient safety as an important issue and has had a Committee on Safety (now renamed the ‘Committee on Safety, Equipment, and Technology”). Recently the WFSA and its Committee on Safety, Equipment and Technology received a document entitled ‘International Standards for a Safe Practice of Anaesthesia’, drafted by an independent International Task Force on Anesthesia Safety. This Task Force was composed of representatives from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, UK, and USA. The authors of the document were well aware that international safety standards must take regional conditions into account and that some anesthesia providers must work with severely limited resources. One interesting aspect of this document, therefore, is which features the authors thought so important as to recommend them even to those working with the most limited resources. Also of some interest is the listing of recommendations concerning the anaesthetist and his/her professional world. Clearly, the authors assume that the anesthetist whether specialized physician, nurse, or untrained helper must command professional standing in order to execute his or her anesthetic responsibilities with the greatest possible safety.

This document was not intended as the wording of worldwide standards. Instead, it is intended as a model for international minimal standards, for intraoperative monitoring as well as for most other basic components of anesthesia practice which could be virtually universally applicable throughout the world. The authors hope that these standards will stimulate discussion of the many facets of anaesthesia that have an impact on safety. Perhaps some anesthesia groups or departments or national societies will find the document or parts of it helpful as templates in the formulation of standards where such standards do not yet exist or where they need to be modified.

At the June 1992 meeting of the WFSA in The Netherlands, these standards were accepted by the Executive Committee of the WFSA. This endorsement by the WFSA lends considerable weight to the message for safety in the document.

Dr. Gravenstein, University of Florida, is chairman of the WFSA Committee on Safety, Equipment, and Technology.