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Urgent call for funding for biomedical engineers: every National Health Service acute trust should have a chief biomedical engineer, says the IMechE's latest report.

The institution is calling for urgent action to prioritise the vital work of biomedical engineers in the UK and overseas. Its report, Biomedical Engineering: Advancing UK Healthcare, highlights the ways in which patient care is becoming increasingly dependent on technology.

According to the report, problems caused by broken hospital equipment result in cancelled operations and poor value for money for taxpayers. In 2013 more than 13,000 incidents relating to faulty medical equipment were recorded by the UK regulator, which led to over 300 deaths and almost 5,000 serious injuries. According to the institution, promoting the role of biomedical engineers can help to save lives in hospitals.

The institution is calling for a clear career structure for graduates and experienced engineers--and recommending key guidelines for the development of this sector. Furthermore, in establishing the Biomedical Engineering Association (BmEA), the institution is the first professional body to recognise biomedical engineering as a distinct profession and provide a career development path for graduates.

Lead author of the report, Dr Patrick Finlay FIMechE, managing director of MediMaton and chairman of BmEA, said: "To reap the full benefits that technological advances can offer UK healthcare and the NFIS, the voices of the people who design, make, maintain and use these pieces of equipment need to be heard."

He added: "The Institution of Mechanical Engineers' BmEA is the largest professional group of biomedical engineers in the UK, and will work closely with related groups in other institutions.

"The report demonstrates some of the exciting ways engineers can revolutionise healthcare and acts as a manifesto for this new profession. We believe the subject of biomedical engineering has come of age."

The report, which includes case studies from academia and industry, states that the UK is among the leaders of biomedical engineering academic research, and has an excellent record in inventing medical devices. But the results are often sold to international corporations for development and marketing because of the lack of long-term domestic venture capital. Also, the development of many technologies is hampered by a lack of international consensus on standards, practices and patents.

The report makes four key recommendations. First, every NHS acute trust should have a designated chief biomedical engineer. Second, a single, dedicated funding programme for biomedical engineering research should be established in the UK research councils.

Third, industrial and taxation policy should promote long-term investment in biomedical engineering to encourage domestic development and manufacturing. Finally, international consensus should be pursued for global standards, a common device regulatory and approvals regime, and harmonisation of patent legislation in medical devices. Named UK leads should be agreed for these policy roles.

Finlay and his co-authors--Professor Anthony Bull, head of the department of bioengineering at Imperial College London, and Professor Tony Unsworth of the University of Durham--say that fragmentation among stakeholders needs to be overcome. They call for government and the NHS to take urgent steps to prioritise the role that engineers play in hospitals and trusts.

Finlay said: "Clinicians and engineers need to work in partnership to ensure that advances in medical technology are applied in the best interest of patients. The benefits of hospitals having a designated chief biomedical engineer responsible for healthcare technology are clear."

According to the report, there are 27 universities teaching 76 undergraduate and postgrad courses in biomedical engineering in the UK.

Dr Helen Meese, head of engineering in society at the IMechE, said: "This report will help to shine a spotlight on this growing profession and demonstrate the diverse areas engineers are working in.

"The BmEA aims to become the natural home for the biomedical engineering profession in the UK. It will bring together professionals from medicine and engineering to discuss the latest advances in healthcare, enabling networking among different industry leaders, and will promote this field to government, healthcare professionals and the public."

Read the report at www.imeche. org/biomedical-engineeringreport. To find out more about the institution's Biomedical Engineering Association, visit: www.imeche. org/knowledge/industries/ biomedical. Hear from report authors on How can we advance UK healthcare?
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Title Annotation:INSTITUTION NEWS: what's happening at the ImechE
Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2014
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