News, News in Brief

News in brief: thoracic robotic surgery virtual observership programme at Guy’s and St Thomas’, two new UK Approved Bodies for medical device certification, trials for sobriety app and stroke treatment, and more

Here, we take a look at some of the health tech news stories to have captured our attention recently.

Virtual observership programme launched at Guy’s and St Thomas’ for robotic surgery

A six-week course in robotic surgery is underway at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which allows applicants such as senior thoracic consultants, trainees, fellows, theatre nurses, and healthcare professionals, to attend live robotic surgeries, interact with experts, and access an “extensive video library” of content.

The programme operates with the help of Proximie, a cloud-based platform that “captures operating room data enabling clinicians to collaborate on any procedure from anywhere and record video content to share information and expertise”.

Live cases for observation include a pulmonary lobectomy, a segmentectomy, a bronchial sleeve, and a thymectomy. The cost to applicants for the programme is £600 per week, plus an admin fee of £350, and participants will receive a Certificate of Attendance after successful completion.

MHRA designates two new UK Approved Bodies for medical device certification

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced that it has designated two new UK Approved Bodies for the certification of medical devices: LNE-GMED UK and Scarlet NB UK.

Two existing bodies have also had their scope expanded, with UL International UK now responsible for assessing and certifying general medical devices alongside in-vitro devices, and TÜV SÜD now designated to “assess and certify active implantables” alongside general medical devices.

The MHRA assesses Approved Bodies on criteria including their ability to impartially and objectively carry out conformity assessments, their quality management system, and their capacity and competence.

Julian Beach, MHRA Interim Executive Director of Healthcare Quality and Access, said: “Our mission is to ensure that patients have access to the high-quality, safe and effective products they need to protect their health. Approved Bodies play a critical role in the supply of medical devices and expanding capacity in this area is a key priority for us, to support manufacturers to bring their products to the UK.”

Robotic system speeds up prescribing in Lancashire 

A robotic system has been introduced at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with the aim of helping to speed up prescribing. Capable of supplying “the same number of packs in an hour that can be manually picked in a day”, the Omnicell Medimat system identifies and scans medications, checking for characteristics such as form, strength, and date, before placing them onto the conveyer belt to be transported to the collection point. It has a loading speed of “up to 750 packs per hour”, and can identify short-dated medications for use first, helping improve stock management.

Andrea Ashton, associate director of pharmacy and chief pharmacy technician, said: “Whilst the work is underway, we have contingencies to reduce the impact on patients and service users, however we anticipate there may be some delay. Patients and their relatives can help by bringing into hospital medicines they currently take, this also helps with reducing missed doses, improves continuity of care during an inpatient stay and minimises the time it takes to prepare medicines for discharge.”

Pilot of app to encourage sobriety at Royal Free London inspires national study 

The pilot of an app designed to encourage patients with alcohol-related liver disease to stay sober at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust has led to a national NIHR-funded study aiming to evaluate cost-effectiveness and consider target populations for the intervention.

Focusing on behavioural change, the AlcoChange app’s functions include a mobile phone-based breathalyser, and personalised messages such as reminders of financial savings, pictures of loved ones, and solutions to overcome cravings.

During the original pilot study, 57 percent of those using the AlcoChange app “remained abstinent over a three month period”, compared with 22 percent of those not using the app regularly, and the intervention group reported fewer hospital admissions a year after last using it.

Rajiv Jalan, professor of hepatology, consultant physician, and co-founder of the app’s developers Cyberliver Ltd, said: “It is exciting to see the positive results of this study. Harnessing digital technology has the potential to revolutionise the management of patients with liver disease as it can be delivered continuously at home, reducing the need for patients having to travel and impacting dramatically on costs of healthcare delivery.”

New stroke treatment using portable device tested in Sheffield

A stroke treatment to improve hand and arm weakness is being tested by researchers from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Sheffield, with funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research, the Medical Research Council and the Association of British Neurologists Fellowship.

The £2 million TRICEPS trial features the use of a portable, pacemaker-like device, which delivers stimulation to damaged parts of the brain when the arm is moved during therapy, linked to an earpiece which “gently tickles the ear”, to stimulate the vagus nerve. It is set to enrol up to 243 patients from 15 UK stroke centres over the next two years, who will be asked to wear the device for one hour, five times per week, to carry out their therapy at home, supported by community physios and occupational therapists.

Professor Arshad Majid, consultant neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and professor of cerebrovascular neurology at the University of Sheffield, shared that in a smaller preliminary trial, it was shown that gently tickling a nerve at the ear using mild electrical pulses “improved arm and hand weakness after stroke when used in conjunction with stroke rehabilitation therapy.”

In the new trial, Arshad added, the team hope to “establish if these findings can be replicated in larger numbers of patients, without the need for surgery, so that stroke survivors can access transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation as part of their at-home rehabilitative therapy and care. By conducting this trial, we also hope to provide definitive answers as to whether this is an effective approach in improving recovery after stroke that can be rolled out at scale to large numbers of patients on the NHS.”

Our last news in brief looked at an upgraded catheterisation lab in Birmingham, sight loss e-learning in Shropshire, a virtual ward update from Cornwall, and more.