In 2017, a 10-year partnership managed equipment service (MES) deal was signed between Althea and Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Musgrove Park Hospital. Two years in, Musgrove Park has seen a massive overhaul and change in its Radiology Service.

The department has had a total redesign to help improve its clinical services, making an improvement to staff workflow and patient experience. David Rolfe, CEO of Althea UK and Ireland, talks about how the partnership was benefiting patients and clinicians.

“Althea assigned a dedicated Service Manager to work with the Hospital team to provide the best possible customer experience,” explains David.

“Understanding on the ground requirements and working closely with clinical staff is key. Existing equipment is immediately covered by Althea’s Customer Care Centre (CCC), based at our Head Office in Theale, providing 24/7 specialist call handlers to manage any breakdowns that occur. Our specialist Technology team then came in to manage the equipment replacements.”

An equipment replacement plan was agreed with the Trust to manage which assets are replaced and when, allowing the department to keep running an efficient clinical service, with minimal disruption. A lot of the Musgrove Park equipment was nearing obsolescence or beyond recommended service life, which created concerns surrounding equipment performance and reliability.

Althea’s clinical-choice contract gives the overall decision in equipment selection to the clinical team, supported by vendor-independent information, analysis and advice from Althea’s Technologists. As one of the largest buyers of medical equipment in the UK & Ireland, Althea has longstanding relationships with all major and emerging manufacturers, ensuring the company is able to provide unbiased advice and consultancy. Its vendor-independence, scale and expertise allow hospitals to select best-of-breed technologies from a variety of manufacturers whilst maintaining the commercial and logistic benefits of having one supplier.

The first set of equipment to be replaced at the hospital was x-ray. This modality includes x-ray systems based in the main department, used with a large range of patients, from those within the hospital (inpatients), to outpatient appointments and GP walk-ins. The aging x-ray rooms were replaced with state-of-the-art Samsung GC85 x-ray systems. These machines are top of the range systems, with full automation and image stitching. The automation of the machines will improve patient through-put and also improve the manual handling demands on the Radiographers, which should have a positive effect on staff wellbeing.

Mobile x-ray systems were also replaced. These machines move around the hospital and go up to the wards to x-ray patients. Two Samsung GM85 systems were chosen by the Trust for their slim, ergonomic and lightweight nature. The GM85s, won the 2017 Design Award for its compact design and optimised workflow and allows easy access around tight spaces. Another mobile unit for the Special Baby Care Unit was also purchased. This was a Fuji Nano system. This machine is ideal for the Neonatal Unit, as it’s a smaller compact unit. It is small enough to move around the incubators within the Special Baby Care Unit.

Further equipment replacements also include, two mobile intensifier units. These machines were replaced with Philips Healthcare BV Pulsera’s. These machines are used in theatres, to give full diagnosis imaging when the surgeons are operating. One of the systems has extra capability, allowing the team to use the machine in a vascular setting. The high power of these units allows better visualisation for the surgeons, especially in spinal cases.

The Ultrasound Department has also seen a change. An extra ultrasound unit – Philips Affiniti 70 was added to the portfolio of equipment. This was to help with the increase in service demand for interventional procedures. A Fujifilm Sonosite X-Porte machine was also installed to enable more bedside procedures to be carried out, rather than patients having to be moved around the department. The General Imaging Department saw an installation of a GE Logiq E9 and the Maternity Department a Canon Aplio i600 system, which features superb microvascular imaging.

“The most exciting development and change is the re-design of the whole Imaging Department including the move of the DEXA department into an old un-used room,” said David.

“Althea’s design services are fully aligned with ISAS’s patient-focussed assessment and accreditation programme and aim to improve patient experience and provide a staff working environment conducive to maximising clinical time.”

The new DEXA machine – a GE Lunar iDXA bone densitometer – is an advanced system which offers high clarity, precision and image resolution on the density of bones. The move of this machine into a different room, made available a space to create an additional CT scanner suite.

It also enabled the Trust to redesign and add additional equipment to their portfolio including the installation of a new MRI Scanner and Injector. The new MRI scanner, which was charity-funded, was given the Royal seal of approval by Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex. The scanner, a Siemens 1.5T Magnetom Aera was officially opened by the Countess on 24 September 2019. The Trust and the charity worked tirelessly to raise the money for this system.

“Althea were able to work with the clinical teams to source the right equipment to suit them and their patients – it wasn’t a case of purchase the cheapest equipment, instead we ensured that we sourced the most appropriate equipment for the hospital and it’s patients,” said David. “The Siemens Aera fitted that category, and we were pleased to have procured this scanner for the charity, ensuring it was money well spent for the department”.

Both Althea and the Trust are grateful for the money raised and funded through a £1 million fundraising campaign led by the hospital’s official charity Love Musgrove. Having a third MRI scanner means clinicians at Musgrove Park can perform more of the most complex scans than ever before. This is particularly important as the hospital has seen an annual ten percent increase in patients who need an MRI. The scanner also helps to provide diagnosis for patients who may have breast cancer, neurological conditions, cardiac problems, tumours, spinal injuries, and musculoskeletal disorders.

But the replacements haven’t stopped there. In the coming months, the existing CT scanner will be updated. The scanner chosen is a GE Revolution EVO scanner, which replaces an old GE VCT. The new technology and software can give the department faster scan times, greater patient throughput and a happier clinical team.

David commented about the transformation at Musgrove Park: “We are proud to offer a vendor-neutral managed service which has been tailored to meet the hospital’s specific needs. This includes around-the-clock maintenance as well as long-term asset replacement. It is the most cost-effective way to ensure patients and clinicians have access to the latest diagnostic technology in first-class, patient-focussed facilities.Althea guarantees an informed, vendor-neutral, clinical choice of both equipment and clinical consumables.”

Adam Turner, Radiology’s Operational Manager at the Trust, explains that there has been a phased approach to the development of the department.

“Working with Althea and moving different teams around into new purpose-built facilities has allowed us to create a modern, bespoke, four-room Ultrasound Department, as well as an additional third MRI suite and six new Radiologist reporting bays. In addition to this, the new build has created both ‘in and outpatient’ waiting facilities and additional office space.”

“The installation of a second Siemens Aera MRI scanner was greatly required and will now remove a bottleneck in our waiting lists for MRI patients.”

But it’s not just new installations that Althea co-ordinate. Althea is responsible for the provision of high quality maintenance for all Radiology assets at the hospital, including the existing equipment from before the MES. Should any equipment faults occur, the Trust calls Althea’s Customer Care Centre regardless of the equipment manufacturer. The CCC provides a swift response and keeps the Trust updated with progress. This can be via the Althea team of expert engineers or selected partners minimising the disruption to clinical practice and maximising equipment uptime. Any issues are also highlighted to the Althea Service Manager for speedy resolution as required. Althea also offer an integrated consumables management service that delivers both cash-releasing savings and significant operational efficiencies for the Radiology, Procurement and Finance teams.

Adam concluded: “It has been an extremely exciting time for us at Taunton. With a larger demand on our imaging services, it is reassuring that our existing equipment has all been refreshed as it means we can continue to keep up with new Radiological techniques. None of this would have been possible without Althea and their managed service.”


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