A hospital tagging system that helps prevent potentially lethal mix-ups in the operating theatre is set to be rolled out commercially after successful trials in Birmingham.
The Safe Surgery System, designed by a Birmingham firm run by a surgeon at Heartlands Hospital helps hospitals keep track of patients going through treatment.
It uses radio frequency identification technology and photographic identification embedded into printed wristbands to help hospitals keep a record of what stage a patient is at during preparation, surgery and aftercare.
Safe Surgery Systems, the medical research spin-off that created the system, has been trialling their creation at Heartlands for more than a year.
The company is now planning to bring it out nationwide, with the help of funding from Allied Irish Bank.
Safe Surgery Systems says the invention could help save lives, and millions of pounds for the NHS in liability payments for hospital mix-ups.
The system has been successfully trialled at Birmingham’s Heartland Hospital since April 2007, during which time there has not been a single case of wrong side/sight surgery (WSS) and at least four potential WSS cases were prevented.
Surgeon David Morgan, who pioneered the technology, said the Safe Surgery System tackled a very real issue in the NHS and had already proved itself during the year-long trial at Heartlands.
He added: “The NHS Litigation Authority estimates that its total liabilities amount to around £9 billion and a significant proportion of that is as a result of WSS so it is clear that any system that can eradicate this problem would be very welcome.”
The Safe Surgery System uses an automated checklist and series of ‘traffic lights’ to make sure all pre-operative tasks have been completed before surgery starts. The tasks remain red if checks have not been done, moving to orange if partially completed, before turning to green to indicate all checks have been successfully completed it is safe to move the patient to theatre.
The system is linked to computer systems and doctors’ personal organisers, meaning surgeons can re-order the surgery list, as well as efficiently measure and track the surgical journey to enable more efficient use of hospital theatres.
Mr Morgan added: “The introduction of the system at Heartlands has also seen the efficiency of patient throughput improved by around 14 per cent which equates to an extra patient per half day so through streamlining patient management alone, the system pays for itself within the first six months.
“Patient safety is currently the number one agenda item in the NHS with more than a million cases of some kind of mistaken identity have taken place with the NHS. These mistakes cost around £250 per patient whereas this system will cost less than £7 per patient.”
Mike Tierney, corporate business manager at Allied Irish Bank in Birmingham, said: “Having funded the research and development programme for Safe Surgery Systems we are now committed to backing David and his team in rolling this product out commercially across the health sector as well as supporting them as they develop a number of other innovations aimed at providing technological solutions that will make healthcare safer and more efficient.”