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The ‘military model’ of EBME service and maintenance is the foundation of the business.

Progressing to the rank of Artificer Sergeant Major, his Army role saw him repair and manage a wide range of military hospital equipment. The engineering training he received while in the Army was, he explained, ‘second to none’, and indeed on co-founding Avensys he was keen to ‘bring the Army way of doing things engineering-wise’ to the company as central to its operations. When I spoke to him in late April, a number of the company’s engineers had recently been undertaking acceptance testing, commissioning, and equipment installation, as part of the construction of five of the new Nightingale hospitals established as emergency back-up facilities to take patients from existing hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak – in London, Harrogate, Manchester, Bristol, and Exeter. For example, at the Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and Humber, which was set up at the Harrogate Convention Centre, Avensys engineers commissioned some 400 ventilators, and brought online a variety of other equipment ready for the facility’s opening. Other engineering tasks undertaken by Avensys engineers for the Nightingale hospitals included commissioning and installing infusion pumps, bair huggers, and monitors, and providing staff deployed to these hospitals from other NHS sites with EBME training specific to the equipment they would be using. This included producing ‘bespoke’ videos on a number of key components, specific to the learners’ requirements – including set-up guides, and videos focusing on pre-use checks and basic operations, for ventilators and suction equipment, filmed and produced at the Kidderminster HQ, and released on the Avensys ‘Moodle’ training platform.

Early aspirations

Rob Strange began our discussions in earnest, however, by recalling his key business philosophy and aspirations for the business – in terms of differentiating it from the competition – when he first established Avensys 13 years ago. He

The Avensys endoscopy department repairs and maintains equipment from the UK and across Europe.

explained: “The whole drive behind Avensys was to harness the approach that biomedical engineers operating in the military take – i.e. offering the skills and specialist expertise to repair and maintain just about any item of biomedical equipment to an exemplary standard.” He continued: “The armed forces’ biomedical engineers are electronic engineering technicians selected from all three services, with the largest contingent drawn from the Army’s Royal Mechanical and Electrical Engineers (REME). Army technicians are chosen from REME’s top two per cent in terms of engineering ability. They are selected, and thus taken away from their normal duties (or postings) of maintaining tank control systems, missile guidance systems, or telecommunications and post-medical and dental training, to take up their new posting at a Royal Army Medical Corps field hospital.” To be able to capably maintain and repair and manage such equipment, these ‘select’ engineers then complete a course lasting several months covering ‘all aspects of all hospital equipment’ – from laboratory equipment to ventilators, to anaesthetic and dental equipment. Rob Strange said: “The training has to be comprehensive, since out in any war zone you can’t simply call out the manufacturer. The Military’s

trained biomedical engineers are thus extremely capable and versatile when it comes to maintaining and repairing electronic healthcare equipment. This is the philosophy I was keen to embed in the way all our engineers at Avensys work.”

School of Electronic Engineering During his time in the Army, the Avensys CEO also led the ‘Medical and Dental’ (or ‘Med & Dent’) section of the Armed Forces’ School of Electronic Engineering at Arborfield near Reading (which has since moved to MoD Lyneham in Wiltshire), and was Mentor for all Tri- Services ‘Med and Dent’ technicians; he thus recognised the value of training early on. He explained: “At a military hospital, the ‘Med & Dent’ engineer is a key member of the unit with responsibility for all medical devices and the workshop, with all the equipment coming in and going out through this department.” Ranks within these departments ranged from Sergeant to Warrant Officer Class 1, with personnel holding qualifications ranging from an HNC in Engineering, through to an Engineering degree. Rob Strange said: “My question on founding Avensys – having seen the way that such REME engineers operate – was: ‘Why can’t we maintain all the biomedical equipment in, say, a large acute hospital, working along the same principles?’ That has been my drive since day one.” As an example of how successful this approach can be, Rob Strange cited Harrogate District Hospital in North Yorkshire, where seven Avensys engineers ‘embedded’ within the hospital’s Estates and Facilities Department maintain and manage up to 95 per cent of the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust’s biomedical equipment in close partnership with the Trust. He said: “We know that this model works extremely well.”

Procurement advice

A number of apprentices work across the business’s divisions.

Another service that Avensys provides to both NHS and private healthcare facilities is advice and support with equipment

September 2020 Health Estate Journal 39

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