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Surgery is getting safer thanks to research by an Oxford University team that has brought together two previously competing theories about how best to protect patients.

Previous attempts to improve patient safety in surgery used one of two approaches. Some investigators tried to improve teamwork and communication by training team members to interact better, using principles developed in the aviation industry. Others have focused on the systems of work and used industrial quality improvement techniques to rationalise these and remove or modify steps which carry a high risk of error.

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