A team of medical device specialists has joined together to support the supply and deployment of vital medical equipment into the healthcare system.

 The aim is to support healthcare providers in ordering new devices such as ventilators, infusion pumps, dialysis and critical care equipment that is fit for purpose and appropriate for use in treating COVID-19 patients.

Activities range from sourcing suitable suppliers and devices and checking devices are compliant, through to commissioning, training, ensuring availability of replacement parts and potential ongoing maintenance. The work will include both domestic suppliers and imported equipment, striking a balance between fast access and due process to make sure vital equipment is supplied in a safe and reliable manner.

The team includes researchers from the Healthcare Technologies Institute at the University of Birmingham, as well as staff from Hugo Technology, a medical equipment maintenance and management company and MRA Technology, a medical device consultancy.

Experts in the Healthcare Technologies Institute and at MRA Technology are working on sourcing suppliers and carrying out initial due diligence on machines, while assessment and specialist testing could then be carried out in Birmingham and at Hugo Technology.

Dr Richard Williams, from the Healthcare Technologies Institute, explains: “It’s well known that healthcare providers are in urgent need of basic medical equipment that can be supplied rapidly and in large volumes. It is so important, however, that this vital equipment will perform to the expected standard.”

“We are keen to work closely with our NHS partners to find out what they need, because not all the equipment available on the market will be suitable for treating COVID-19 patients. Even in times of national emergency we need to uphold patient safety and make sure processes are in place for staff to be able to have the correct equipment to carry out their duties.”

David Juggins, Chief Commercial Officer at Hugo Technology Ltd., underlined the importance of building the right teams and processes in a rapid response: “due to the impending crisis, and the need for a fast and safe solution, we established a team of specialists with medical device and supply chain knowledge working largely out of hours on device sourcing, testing/validation and most importantly taking into account clinical needs and feedback.

The team of specialists work daily throughout academia, industry and healthcare, but collectively worked to deliver a robust staged disaster plan urgently. Ultimately, the team symbolises collaboration for the greater good.”

The team has already been at work verifying ventilators and infusion devices from suppliers across the world prior to their being installed in NHS hospitals and in the new NHS Nightingale Hospital set up in London’s ExCel exhibition centre.

Dr Mark Reeves, from MRA Technology said: “Without having physically met the other team members we gravitated quickly, defined how we could best contribute to the crisis and performed tasks required according to our skills and availability at any time.”

Beyond the current pandemic, the plan is to help set in place systems and processes that are sufficiently robust to enable the NHS to respond to future emergencies.

Dr Reeves further commented: “Multidisciplinary expert teams such as ours must be front and centre when reviewing the response to this crisis and planning how to avoid equipment shortages in the inevitable future pandemics. Next time we need the time and resources to procure, hold in readiness and distribute additional complex medical equipment into whatever medical mass-emergency hits us next."

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