Reading the press release accompanying a new IMechE report on Biomedical Engineering made me consider for the first time a branch of engineering that I hadn’t thought about in any depth before, and one that, like everyone, I sincerely hope I never need to call on.
An article in June in Professional Engineer magazine, on engineers and doctors working together to provide care for injured troops, probably sowed the seed of my interest. More recently, taking time to look around the St Mary’s hospital Birth Centre after the birth of my second child, I was impressed by the design of this resuscitation station:
This workstation not only provides all equipment needed for the immediate postpartum care of newborns, but also folds neatly away so that parents don’t have to spend any time looking at red LEDs and valves marked “oxygen” and considering the fragility of new life.
Whilst the headline of the IMechE press release (“lack of NHS engineers is putting lives at risk”) grabs your attention because of missed opportunities and potential tragedies when hospital equipment is not available, the report covers the biomedical engineering industry as a whole, including the next steps anticipated in several key fields of research, how UK industry and academic contributions can be boosted, and the need for harmonisation of global standards on this subject.
Back to that headline, though, and I completely support the idea of a senior engineering role in NHS trusts to ensure that the vast quantities of life-saving and life-supporting equipment employed by the NHS are in the best possible condition any time of day or night. The creation and coordination of this role should also drive researchers and equipment designers to be constantly improving upon the state of the art, which will in turn improve health care though technology. Of course, we hope we’ll never need these services, but it will be reassuring to think of a Chief Engineer overseeing their provision.