A quiet revolution is going on in the NHS as technology plays an ever-increasing part in patient care.
The range of technology varies from patient administration systems to x-ray systems and infusion pumps to the humble but ubiquitous syringe.
Medical equipment and devices figure largely in this revolution. But although there has been much guidance in the past via the Medical Devices Agency, only now are controls coming into force for their use, maintenance and user training with the advent of the Department of Health's controls assurance for medical devices.
Yet how many articles on medical devices and their use and abuse have we seen in general health service management magazines? Very few and often only those related to other topics such as the millennium bug.
True, specialist organisations exist to help manage and maintain medical devices.
Within a hospital there may be a medical physics department or an electromedical and biomedical engineering department to maintain the equipment. And there may be a training department to organise user training.
Externally, professional organisations help with guidance, information and training. These include the MDA and the clinical engineering special interest group of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.
However, general managers are becoming increasingly involved in the mechanics of purchasing equipment, prioritising those purchases, arranging for them to be properly maintained and arranging if not the actual training in their use, at least the funding for the training.
The use of equipment is also heavily bound up within clinical risk management for a trust - which must be managed in part by general managers, nurses and medics. As the liability insurance costs are also weighted in favour of trusts which manage the risks well, it is in general managers' interests to have a general knowledge of the risks associated with equipment management. Can we see more articles on the management issues related to medical equipment in HSJ?
Frances Armes Clinical scientist and CESIG member Medical physics department Bradford Hospitals trust