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Healthcare: Engineering Solutions for the NHS

In this campaign document, we call for a Chief Biomedical Engineer position to be created in each acute NHS Trust in the UK.

This measure would encourage best practice in procurement, maintenance and use of medical equipment.

A Chief Biomedical Engineer in each acute Trust, would work alongside roles such as the chief nurse and chief pharmacist; with consistent qualifications, level of authority, decision-making abilities and connectivity with other Trusts.

This would not only increase the opportunity for cost savings but also encourage best practice in the procurement, maintenance and use of medical equipment.

In many Trusts, this position and role will already exist, albeit under different titles, departments and levels of authority.

The costs of this change would be negligible, but the benefits to patients, services, budgets and the NHS would be significant.

It is estimated that including engineering into this process has the potential to save the NHS over £700M each year.

In an ever-more technical environment, we need highly-qualified engineers to ensure the NHS is able to make the best decisions possible regarding medical equipment, which can facilitate early diagnosis, provide better and cost-effective treatment for patients, and help improve safe independent living, while reducing costs to the NHS in the short and long term.

Key Benefits of a Chief Biomedical Engineer

1. Patient safety: Overseeing the quality of clinical care by analysing and reporting on incidents involving medical devices, thereby helping to improve patient safety.

2. Value for money: The National Audit Office states that value for money in the planning, procurement and use of high-value equipment, such as MRI scanners or linear accelerator machines, is not being met across all Trusts due to a lack of comparable information about performance and cost of machine use.

3. Equipment management: The National Audit Office states that there is a lack the information and benchmarking data required by Trusts to secure cost-efficient procurement and sustainable maintenance of key elements in modern diagnosis and treatment.

4. Calibration and validation of equipment: Currently there is a lack of consistent responsibility for this function. A recent Medical Device Equipment Alert relating to dangers of mis-calibrated scales was addressed to Risk Managers, H&S Officers, Estates Managers, Nurse Directors and Clinical Directors. It is unlikely that many, if any, of those people would have the training or equipment to calibrate even a simple set of scales. Mis-calibrations of more complex items, such as medical scanners, can result in life-threatening complications.

5. Research, development and translation: As designers and assessors of equipment, biomedical engineers have an invaluable role working with clinicians to produce customised medical devices for individual patients. They contribute to the design, monitoring and analysis of clinical trials of new equipment, and support the translation of new products into clinical practice.

6. Long-term technology strategy: Biomedical engineers are able to deliver a sustainable and well-defined plan to maximise patient safety, clinical safety and overall value from medical technology through understanding the needs of clinicians, patients and the wider NHS.

Related links

Visit the Healthcare: Engineering Solutions for the NHS campaign page.


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