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Background/Aims Operating theatres represent a large proportion of NHS healthcare resources, so there has been focus on reducing costs in this area. This, in part, relies on managers having knowledge of the relevant costs in operating rooms. This study aimed to gauge the level of familiarity regarding costs among the various tiers of managers of NHS operating theatres, and if this information informed their decision making. Methods A semi-structured interview was administered to 12 finance managers, theatre managers and board members across 16 separate hospitals, representing six NHS trusts. Responses were reviewed through qualitative analysis by the authors. Findings The respondents showed very limited knowledge of operating theatre costs, with nearly all being unable to use cost data to inform either daily or longer-term strategic decision making. In particular, the costs of under- or over-running operating lists were not known. Conclusions The study suggests that heuristics of operating theatre management are, in practice, not influenced by costs. Instead, the resulting cost balance appears to be a passive consequence of decision-making based on other factors. This has significant implications for cost reduction initiatives and suggests an urgent need for improvement.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Health Care Management

Publication Date