All of us at SMTL are delighted to hear that Dr Steve Thomas,  Director of the Surgical Materials Testing Laboratory (SMTL) from 1989 until 2005, has been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services to the NHS in the 2018 Queen\'s Birthday Honours.

Steve studied pharmacy at Cardiff University followed by a PhD on gluteraldehyde.   His initial post in the NHS was as QC Pharmacist for Mid Glamorgan Health Authority, where he started in 1970. As the laboratory grew Steve developed an interest in wound dressings and medical devices, and his expertise was recognised by the Welsh Office who appointed him as the Surgical Dressings QA Pharmacist for Wales.  When the laboratory moved from East Glamorgan Hospital to Bridgend General Hospital in 1989, Steve became the first Director of SMTL.

Steve is recognised internationally as a world expert on woundcare products, establishing the first NHS medical device and dressings testing lab in the UK for the Wesh Office. He has written over 150 papers and articles on surgical dressings, bandages and maggots and set up the first European sterile production centre for maggots used for wound debridement, reintroducing maggot debridement therapy to Europe, and turned this into a commercial venture which was spun off by the NHS as Zoobiotics in 2005 when Steve left the NHS.

As Director of the Welsh NHS Surgical Materials Testing Laboratory (SMTL) he developed it into an internationally recognised leading centre for its work in on medical devices and surgical dressings. Steve was editorial advisor to the British National Formulary (BNF), founder member of the editorial board of the Journal of Wound Care, Senior editorial advisor to World Wide Wounds and editor of the Formulary of Wound Management Products. He developed the first performance-based test methods for modern wound- care products, which were adopted by the British Pharmacopoeia and the European Standards organisation CEN, as well as the test method used for over 30 years for bandages.

He was long term member of Committee L of the British Pharmacopoeia, editorial advisor to MIMs as well as a member of multiple BSI and CEN standards committees. He was a twice winner of the Nicholas Award (Guild of Hospital Pharmacists), and in 2001 gained the Queen’s Award for Innovation for the LarvE project. In 2002 he was joint winner of the William Hunting Award (British Veterinary Association), again for his work with maggot therapy.

After leaving Zoobiotics in 2007, he set up a medical device consultancy, Medetec, which continues to provide expert advice and consultancy to the dressings industry and the NHS in Wales. He published a number of recent papers on the effects of humidity on dressing performance and measurement of sub-garment pressure, which lead to the development of an apparatus used in the Welsh NHS as part of their evidence-based procurement programme, and which is under consideration for adoption as a UK standard.

Steve continues to be relied on for advice to European Working Groups on dressings test methods, for indusry as an expert witness in legal cases, and has recently been commissioned by NHS Wales to produce Health Technology Assessments. He is the author of several patents related to dressings and maggot production and distribution. His 2010 book on “Surgical Dressings & Wound Management” is considered internationally to be the standard reference on dressings.

Rebecca England, SMTL's environmental monitoring technician, took part in the Welsh 4 peaks challenge on the 9th June.  Rebecca and friends from the Force Gym walked up Snowdon, Cadair Idris, Pen Y Fan and finally Gwaelod Y Garth !

Rebecca is third from the left in the photo above.

The aim was to raise money for Velindre cancer care, who had provided outstanding treatment to one of the gym members recently after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly after giving birth to her first child.

The full story of why they undertook the challenge is on the Just Giving site.

All of us here at SMTL say 'well done' to Rebecca and the others at Force Gym for raising over £10,000 for VCC.

The SMTL have been referenced in a recent paper published in the British Journal of Nursing, 2017, Vol 26, No 13, by Melanie J Thomas and Karen Morgan ("The development of Lymphoedema Network Wales to improve care").  This article describes the establishment of Lymphoedema Network Wales (LNW) which was developed to improve lymphoedema patient care with a focus on service delivery centred on evidence-based practice.

Compression garments are the mainstay of lymphoedema treatment as they support and reduce swelling, and the project identified the requirement to establish a National Compression Garments Contract and Formulary to manage garment usage for primary and secondary care.  The SMTL was a key stakeholder in this process, testing tendered products to ensure that only garments that produced specific graduated pressure profiles were purchased by NWSSP Procurement Services for the formulary.  This project has ensured NHS Wales is using compression garments that provide the best clinical outcome for patients, and this work was recognised with LNW, NWSSP Procurement Services and SMTL being awarded a Patient Safety Award in 2016 for this development.

SMTL have been undertaking the testing of compression products for over 30 years, and are active participants in the current standardisation project with BSI which is revising these standards (SMTL hold the posts of Chair and Editor on this project).

SMTL are pleased to formally welcome two new members of staff to the team.

Brogan Finley is a microbiologist who worked for Severn Trent before taking a career break to have her children.   She joined the Physical Testing team at SMTL in Oct 2017, undertaking testing on medical gloves and many other medical devices.

​Dr James Evans, a microbiologist by background, has been working at CEDAR in recent years as a Research Associate on a number of projects for NICE's Medical Technologies Evaluation Programme (MTEP), carrying out PROMs analyses and working with linked healthcare data. The majority of his work has been summarising and critically appraising the scientific literature.  James joins Dr Joanna Ford as part of the R+D team supporting the Evidence Based Procurement Board with Rapid Reviews and evidence appraisal.

Both posts have been funded by NWSSP.

Since the untimely death of Wayne Jowett in 2001, who died after a toxic cancer drug was wrongly injected into his spine at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre, the NHS, medical device industry and various global standards organisations have been trying to produce a mechanical barrier to prevent further tragedies, after the Toft report in 2001 recommended "A new spinal needle with a connection that cannot fit Luer mount intravenous syringes should be introduced, in conjunction with a new syringe which can only be fitted to that specific spinal needle."  In the intervening years various attempts have been made to produce a design which is accepted internationally and which would mitigate these 'wrong route' risks.  

9 years ago, Welsh Government set up a group (the Welsh Non-Luer Connectors Reference Group - WNCRG) which was responsible for monitoring developments in this area and for coordinating the introduction of such devices when they were available.  An international standard was published 2 years ago specifically for epidural and neuraxial devices (ISO 80369-6) which specified new connectors for syringes and needles which would reduce the risks of further wrong-route incidents. Since the publication of that standard, industry have adopted it and have been working with the NHS to deliver medical devices incorporating the new connector.

A decision was made in mid 2017 that Aneurin Bevan University Health Board would be the first Welsh organisation to roll out the new devices.  Doctors Stephen Edwards (Deputy Medical Director - Secondary Care,  ABUHB) and  Paul Nichols (Consultant Anaesthetist, ABUHB)  have since been working with colleagues in Welsh Procurement, WNCRG and their own health board to ensure a smooth transition, and finally in mid January 2018, NRFit compatible medical devices were deployed in ABUHB.  

At the date of writing (26th Feb 2018) 3 hospitals have made the transition including the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.  Other hospitals in Wales will start changing over to the new devices later this year, but completion of the process will not be possible until all of the epidural administration sets are available in NRFit designs. This could mean some hospitals or procedures may have to wait until  Spring 2019 before all the equipment they need is available.


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