PA.40 Ahead of times or behind? An audit evaluating the accuracy of timekeeping devices in an obstetric unit

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Accurate timekeeping in obstetrics is crucially important and has significant clinical and legal implications. Department of Health Guidelines promote a ‘bare below the elbows’ clinical dress code, emphasising the importance of other timepieces. This audit aimed to assess accuracy of timekeeping devices in the obstetric department in a busy district general hospital.


A radio-controlled clock synchronised with MSF radio signal was used as the comparison standard. Times displayed on clocks, cardiotocography monitors and other devices (mainly computer screens and anaesthetic monitors) in clinical obstetric areas were recorded. Times were recorded as fast or slow to the nearest minute, with the proposed standard as agreement between all devices and the control.


In total, 65 timepieces were assessed. Just 5 of 27 clocks (19%) and 2 of 20 CTG monitors (10%) were correct. For other devices, 14 of 18 (78%) were correct, a considerably higher proportion. Overall, 32% of all devices displayed the same time as the control. On the labour ward, just 24% of timepieces were correct. Incorrect times ranged from -3 to +5 min5 minutes.

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