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Intercostal chest drain insertion by general physicians: attitudes, experience and implications for training, service and patient safety
  1. John P Corcoran1,
  2. Robert J Hallifax2,
  3. Ambika Talwar3,
  4. Ioannis Psallidas1,
  5. Annemarie Sykes1,
  6. Najib M Rahman1
  1. 1Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Department of Respiratory Medicine, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Aylesbury, UK
  3. 3Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, Reading, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr John P Corcoran, Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine, Churchill Hospital, Oxford OX3 7LE, UK; jpcorcoran{at}


Background Intercostal chest drain (ICD) insertion is considered a core skill for the general physician. Recent guidelines have highlighted the risks of this procedure, while UK medical trainees have reported a concurrent decline in training opportunities and confidence in their procedural skills.

Objectives We explored clinicians’ attitudes, experience and knowledge relating to pleural interventions and ICD insertion in order to determine what changes might be needed to maintain patient safety and quality of training.

Methods Consultants and trainees delivering general medical services across five hospitals in England were invited to complete a questionnaire survey over a 5-week period in July and August 2014.

Results 117 general physicians (32.4% of potential participants; comprising 31 consultants, 48 higher specialty trainees, 38 core trainees) responded. Respondents of all grades regarded ICD insertion as a core procedural skill. Respondents were asked to set a minimum requirement for achieving and maintaining independence at ICD insertion; however, only 25% of higher specialty trainees reported being able to attain this self-imposed standard. A knowledge gap was also revealed, with trainees managing clinical scenarios correctly in only 51% of cases.

Conclusions Given the disparity between clinical reality and what is expected of the physician-in-training, it is unclear whether ICD insertion can remain a core procedural skill for general physicians. Consideration should be given to how healthcare providers and training programmes might address issues relating to clinical experience and knowledge given the implications for patient safety and service provision.


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