The devastating impact misplaced equipment can have on critical care – and hospital budgets
Based in the heart of Derbyshire’s Peak District, Chesterfield Royal Hospital, the only facility in its Trust, is a sprawling, low rise building – so designed to adhere to strict planning restrictions in an area of natural beauty. Each year its team of 4,500 staff and 150 volunteers, across 20 wards oversee 550 beds many of which are used to care for the 22,000 patients that receive complex surgery. The hospital delivers over 2,500 babies a year and treats 96,000 patients in its A&E department. Add to this the 8 million pathology tests that are carried out annually, Chesterfield Hospital’s position within the community is undeniably important.
As the hospital is so spread out, valuable time can be lost searching and walking thousands of steps to track down and retrieve medical devices that had been moved to another ward. These delays can be life-altering.
The Clinical Engineering (CE) team of 12 is in charge of audit and facilities management of Chesterfield’s huge library of medical equipment (which sits at 15,000 different devices and counting). The team was increasingly becoming anxious and frustrated with not only having to manually track critical devices, but also having to account for and replace misplaced equipment – especially in the face of an increasingly tight budget.
A manual data cleanse in 2019 saw the team write off 2,165 lost devices from its database. A lot of this equipment included items that could be perceived as low cost to many busy staff or even patients, such as infrared thermometers or a T34 Syringe Driver. Devices such as these cost between £50 and £1000 respectively, which result in a large financial tally when hundreds go missing over a 36-month period.
The CE team is also responsible for receiving and handling MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) alerts and manufacturer upgrades on devices like heart monitors. This means if the regulator finds a fault with a device it will notify the CE team, and it is then their responsibility to oversee repairs alongside the manufacturer.
Furthermore, to aid patients in leaving hospital when they are medically fit to do so but require medical equipment, the hospital regularly loans out some of its equipment to wider community bodies in need. This adds a complex dynamic to keeping an accurate inventory.
Stuart Barton, Specialist Clinical Engineer at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust comments, “Much of the equipment we use day-in day-out can be considered life-critical. We needed to make sure that staff were able to work safely and deliver clinical excellence, but the challenge was mounting especially with COVID-19.
“There just simply wasn’t any room for error or lengthy searches for equipment when demand for services were so high. We also couldn’t afford the mounting costs of misplaced items; it was needless waste and there had to be a way to reduce it somehow.”