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biomedical training and apprenticeships for medical engineers. The initiative has been highlighted recently on national television, with the Prime Minister meeting staff and apprentices at the new site. We already deliver the apprenticeship programme at Level 2 and Level 4, and offer a Level 5 diploma for biomedical engineers UK-wide, with some 90 apprentices from the NHS currently training with Avensys and Dudley College of Technology. There really is no excuse for not building up these departments with modern-day apprentices given the current apprenticeship funding programmes.”

Having by now extensively discussed what Rob Strange perceives to be some of the obstacles, as well as the opportunities for, in-house NHS EBME personnel, we moved to briefly focus on some of Avensys’s recent work in support of the construction of the Nightingale hospitals. He said: “At the London Nightingale at ExCeL, for instance, we had up to seven engineers on site commissioning and maintaining equipment. What was great was that all the engineers from all the companies that were involved worked hard together to get the site up and running, working with competitors and manufacturers. At ExCeL, we provided EBME/Medical Physics support for all the equipment arriving on site, and commissioned it ready for use.” This equipment ranged from beds, to infusion pumps, to patient monitors and ventilators. He added: “We were also asked to provide some fast- track technical training for a number of Nightingale hospital sites – at ExCeL this comprised online training, followed by two days’ practical training on infusion pumps, anaesthetic machines, and ventilators. Staff participating ranged from clinical scientists to engineers from a variety of backgrounds.”

Avensys also helped source equipment for the Nightingale hospitals in Harrogate, Manchester, and Bristol, and when I spoke

Avensys CEO Rob Strange (left), with Neil Thomas, CEO and Principal, Dudley College of Technology, at the site of the new Institute of Technology in Dudley. Far right: Avensys Marketing and Communications manager, Dan Sullivan.

to Rob Strange by phone, had had just started fulfilling a similar equipment procurement and commissioning role at the Bristol Nightingale. As part of its offering, of course, the company sells both new and reconditioned EBME equipment, and, due to the large number of beds proposed for some of the emergency hospitals, and the lack of sufficient biomedical equipment in the volumes needed, the Avensys CEO explained that some of the kit provided was supplied reconditioned.

Excellent working order

“Typically,” interjected Avensys Marketing and Communications manager, Dan Sullivan, at this point, “NHS hospitals will not consider buying secondhand biomedical equipment, but where this is a necessity, – such as with the fast-track built Nightingale hospitals, with sudden unforeseen demand and the need to keep costs reasonable – the service will do, and will hopefully recognise that refurbished equipment from us in is excellent working order, has been thoroughly tested, and comes with a warranty.”

Rob Strange explained at this point that last year he and co-owner, Steve Holt, had sold Avensys to Austrian multinational,

An EBME manufacturer’s standpoint

Andrew Bligh, Marketing manager for Service & Academy at Dräger UK & Ireland, countered some of Rob Strange’s criticisms of EBME manufacturers not offering ‘in-house’ NHS EBME personnel much in the way of training when he said: “As a trusted manufacturer of medical and safety technology across the globe, we understand the importance of providing exceptional maintenance and educational programmes to ensure the longevity and correct functioning of life-saving technology within high-risk environments. “Here at Dräger UK & Ireland, we noted, and reacted to, an increasing trend for in-house medical equipment servicing in the late 1980s by extending our technical training portfolio to the biomedical engineering community. Since then, we have welcomed approximately 300 in-house medical service engineers to our training facilities every year, and train them to the same world-class standards as our own engineering team. In addition, we also provide technicians with access to our technical support helpline, and an extensive range of online educational content, at no additional cost.”

42 Health Estate Journal September 2020

VAMED, a global healthcare specialist, a move which had already had a positive impact.

In addition to the Avensys team at Harrogate District Hospital, the company also maintains medical equipment at other NHS and private hospitals. Rob Strange said: “I think what really stands out at Harrogate is the open-minded approach of both the Trust’s Board and management and the Estates & Facilities team to the system we have in place. With our engineers on site, Harrogate District Hospital has a well-run, well-resourced team managing all of its biomedical equipment, who also understand the hospital’s needs.” He emphasised, however, that he was equally happy for a Trust seeking to improve its EBME operations to staff the department itself – ‘given a sufficient headcount’. He concluded: “My biggest issue, as an ex-MoD guy, is that NHS hospitals should be running these departments themselves. It should also be noted that EBME department roles within a Trust offer valuable career opportunities for suitably skilled and adaptable engineers. There are some fantastic ‘in-house’ NHS EBME departments with well-trained staff, but – due to the factors I have mentioned – not only are they in the minority, but many are operating at well below the capability and capacity they could if they were afforded more attention.” He added: “I visited one such department which was based in a cabin in the hospital’s car park. As equipment technology moves at a faster pace, many of these guys have been left behind in the bowels of the hospital, and haven’t been able to keep up. There is a fantastic opportunity for any young person from college to join a hospital EBME department and forge a very worthwhile career there. We have done a couple of presentations recently with 20-30 students, and many of the participants were amazed at the amount of technology within a hospital environment.”


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