Welcome to the wonderful world of Medical Equipment Management; let’s hope no-one here gets too offended by the title of my post!
One of the things that often comes across when people outside of the hospital ask what we do, is the simple reaction of surprise and the realization once again that there is far more to the NHS than they thought.
No-one really considers who is fixing, maintaining and managing the equipment in our hospitals, GP surgeries and dental practices, and we never appear on any of the TV shows! (Hint for any budding TV producers who read this)
Within the hospital itself though, I often feel that much of what we do is widely invisible, beyond those we work directly with and so, with that in mind, here are some little facts…
We have over 41000 items of equipment on the asset register, made up of over 8500 different models of equipment. We have five operational teams which cover distinct areas for our Trust and customers, including the Medical Equipment Library (MEL).
Populating these teams are 25 spanner spinning, solder wielding technicians. These are the ones who actually diagnose, repair and maintain the equipment and are supported by a good number of administrative, development and support workers, and we all play our part in keeping the equipment where it belongs, available to our patients and, of course, working!
It is fair to say though that no two days in MEMS are the same
We have our planned work of course; servicing, safety testing or repairing something on our incoming work shelves, but this is very often interspersed with the need for a more dynamic response from our technical teams.
We may be elbows deep in servicing one of NICUs neonatal ventilators, calibrating an audiometer or indeed, a surgical diathermy, when the phone rings… the next moment we can be running off to theatres, getting changed into scrubs to support with some technical issue during an operation or forming a team of available technicians to erect a bariatric gantry on one of the wards.
Even as I write this, I’ve stopped to respond to a patient who called ahead as they arrived in the hospital and wanted their CPAP checked over. That’s not even mentioning responding to issues such as Medical Device Alerts or calls from a distant hospital site, or GP surgery requiring an immediate offsite response.
This ability to respond is one of MEMS strengths, and I have to confess is very often a very good demonstration in the concept of leading by example, where no task is too great or too small for anyone. So when we get a call for a bariatric hoist, the team that assembles it will be made up from whoever is available at that time. As such, when the team arrives to respond to that need, it may be made up of anyone from the head of the department or team leads, right through to our newest technicians and all in-between; all working together once again to ensure that the equipment is available for use when needed.
How we work
In MEMS, we have weekly operational meetings, where the team leads get together to highlight any issues or priorities that have come to light.
One of the outcomes of these meetings you will have seen recently, is the call to return MEL equipment from wards back to the library when it is not in use. We all know our clinical staff are busy and have our patients to care for and as such our library team visit all across the hospital to collect cleaned MEL equipment for them.
It is important that they are able to collect items that may be being kept on the wards ‘just in case’ too, to ensure it is available for all our patients, all our wards and in working order. As the title of this blog said, we are ‘the geeks in the basement’ and one thing we are particularly geeky about is batteries. The simple fact is the battery within a piece of medical equipment (pumps are a good example) in a cupboard or store and not plugged in, will deteriorate and when needed, possibly fail. Therefore it is just much better to be proactive and have it in the Library, maintained and ready for use for all.
I hope this has helped to outline a little bit more about what we do, and the pride we take in what we offer ‘down in the basement’.
Stephen is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from MEMS, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.