ENT Stock Case Study


The Service Improvement team were asked to work with the ENT theatre team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who mainly work in two theatres out of a total of 50 across the Trust.


They asked the team to describe what they love about working in their theatres and what drives them nuts, it was clear that looking after stock was a big problem for them.

Problems highlighted included finding time to scan and to put items away, items not always being held in the most logical place in theatre and the amount of stock being held. Members of the supplies team were also asked for the challenges they face and were really helpful in suggesting ideas to improve, giving details of what is possible to change as well as data about what stock was being held.


A smaller group of the theatre team then met with Service Improvement to discuss what to do next. During the meeting, they were given some training about an improvement method, 5S, which can be used to help teams reorganise their work areas, to make stock and equipment quicker and easier to find and use.

The 5S method breaks this process into 5 steps – Sort, Shape, Shine, Standardise and Sustain.


The team decided to use this method to redesign how they manage their stock, starting with “Sort” to ensure they only had the stock they should have in their theatres. To achieve this they carried out a date check, throwing away any stock which was out of date, the team didn’t think they would find any but actually around £500 worth of items were discarded.

They also looked at stock that had been over ordered and wouldn’t be used by their team before it went out of date. They identified over 3000 items with a value of over £26000 which they could redistribute for other teams to use. Other than making sure items are used before going out of date, this has also created space in theatres which helped the team when they moved onto the next “S” – “Shape”, looking at how to reorganise their stock areas.

The team have now started to do some work shaping their theatres, this has included taking stock out of the packaging to create space and putting in clearly labelled drawers and plastic tubs making them easier to find and pick when needed. The team are continuing to work on this and have ideas about putting more information, such as re-order levels on the drawers/tubs.

Next Steps

As the team move towards “Standardise” and “Sustain” they hope to look at the way they order their stock to make sure that they order the right amount at the right time to support the cases they are carrying out.

Although much of this work has been simple and straightforward to achieve, teams can often feel constricted in such a large theatre environment to make these sorts of changes. Working in a small area, using the 5S method to break down the work into achievable steps, has given the team a sense of ownership to make their area work for them. The whole department can now benefit from the lessons learned by this group of staff to improve their theatre areas.

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