Representing estates and facilities professionals operating within the  



New report claims lack of NHS engineers is putting lives at risk

A new report claims that the low priority given to NHS Engineers is leading to problems caused by faulty medical equipment, cancelled operations, poor value for money for taxpayers and even deaths.

With the increasing role and complexity of technology used in hospitals, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ report – ‘Biomedical engineering: advancing UK healthcare’ – is calling for urgent action to prioritise the role of engineers in the NHS and the introduction of a Chief Biomedical Engineer in every NHS Acute Trust.

In 2013 13,642 incidents related to faulty medical equipment were reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), leading to 309 deaths and 4,955 people sustaining serious injury, claims the report. Incidents varied from faulty pacemakers to faulty equipment like CT or MRI scanners; this faulty equipment, or the unavailability of it, is also one of the major causes of cancelled operations.

As the technology used in hospitals becomes increasingly complex, the danger of improperly calibrated and validated equipment is also increasing, says the report. Indeed, there are huge implications to the mis-calibration of even basic equipment such as weighing scales, which could result in patients being given the incorrect dosage of medication.
Dr Patrick Finlay, lead author of the report and Chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers' Biomedical Engineering Association, says Clinicians and Engineers need to work in partnership to ensure that advances in medical technology are applied in the best interest of patients.  “Technology is leading to huge advances in healthcare, but this technology is dependent on the work of biomedical engineers who are inadequately recognised and in short supply in most hospitals.
“It is vital that engineers are at the heart of the planning, procurement, use and maintenance of high value equipment, as well as its calibration,” he continued, saying that the report demonstrates some of the “exciting ways engineers can revolutionise healthcare” through, for example, new, low invasive treatments to sense, measure and manipulate the human body; or by developing novel ways of tracking and monitoring personal health through mobile phone apps.