Dr. John Sandham CEng FIHEEM warns that when medical technology fails its ‘MOT’ so does the whole of the NHS. He argues that effective medical technology management can lead to better clinical outcomes, happier staff, and a more efficient NHS.
For too many years, medical equipment management has floundered in the NHS, never quite understood by the executive board. Every year, NHS hospitals spend money on the equipment that is perceived to be the ‘most needy’ replacement. Very few Trusts have any sort of equipment replacement plan in place, partly because of budgetary constraints, and partly because they just don’t link the investment in professional management of their technology to improved clinical outcomes, and improved efficiencies.
Trust executives have no choice but to modernise. A recent story in the Guardian ran the headline: “Four in 10 NHS hospitals in England found to use outdated equipment in Lib Dem study”.1 In my experience, it is usually more than that, but let’s leave it at 40%. In terms of investment, just to get up to date, the Government would need to provide an additional £2 billion across the NHS. It would need to be ringfenced for medical equipment or it would disappear into a financial black hole of other under resourced areas.
There are a great many projects going on in the NHS that are reliant on new technology, but that is not my point; or maybe it is exactly my point. A piecemeal approach to buying technology results in higher costs for the NHS, and higher risks for the patients. In the recent Guardian article, it said that one Bedfordshire Trust was still using a 37-year-old X-ray machine. Strangely, this didn’t surprise me.
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