An  FAQ targeted at the UK NHS,  based  on an original FAQ coordinated by  CHPSO and GEDSA is now available (PDF download).

The SMTL have been working with Consultant ENT surgeon Mr Dave Owens and one of his ENT registrars to undertake in vitro assessments of the hydrostatic head required to penetrate grommets. 

The insertion of grommets is a common procedure in children in the UK, and patients frequently express concern about the impact of the procedure on  their ability to participate in swimming and other water-based activities.  Currently there is little information available regarding the actual likelihood of water penetrating through a grommet.

In the laboratory, a novel model was constructed to replicate a grommet inserted through a tympanic membrane.  Four test solutions (deionised water, sodium chloride, 10% soapy water and 10ppm chlorinate water) were applied to the model at a constant rate until bubbles and droplets were observed at the outlet of the grommet.  The hydrostatic head at these points of breakthrough was then recorded.

Results indicate significant differences in the breakthrough pressures for the various test fluids.  A paper is being prepared for publication.

SMTL have been hosted by ABMU HB (Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board) since its inception in 2009, having previously been hosted by ABMU's predecessors. In 2015, Neil Frow (Managing Director of NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership) wrote to Paul Roberts (Chief Executive of ABMU) requesting the transfer of the Surgical Material Testing Laboratory from ABMU into NWSSP.  The last year has involved detailed discussions between SMTL, ABMU and NWSSP, and recently it was agreed that everything was in place for SMTL to change their hosting organisation from October 1st 2016.

Initially, SMTL's clients will see very little difference, as the laboratory will continue to be located at Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.  The main difference commercial customers will see will be a different billing organisation and address (NWSSP rather than ABMU).  Over the coming months you will also see some slight changes in the livery of web pages and reports to reinforce the new relationship with NWSSP, and in the longer term we anticipate that new services will be developed to support NHS Wales patients and staff, and in particular new initiatives from NWSSP procurement to purchase safer and more effective medical devices.

SMTL and the Procurement arm of NWSSP have a long and fruitful history, extending back over 30 years to the late 1970's when the Welsh Office funded the original Dressings QA Pharmacist post at East Glamorgan Hospital to support Welsh Procurement. SMTL's success has also been bound up with Mid Glamorgan Health Authority and its successors (Bridgend and District NHS Trust, Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust, ABM University NHS Trust, and now ABMU HB), which allowed us the freedom to create innovative services (such as the Biosurgery Research Unit for maggot debridement of wounds) and develop test methods for medical devices which are recognised internationally.  We would like to thank everyone at ABMU for supporting us through the last few decades, and look forward to a new and exciting era working with colleagues at NWSSP. 





In November 2016, SMTL once again hosted UKAS, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, for their annual independent inspection of SMTL. During 2 days of inspections our staff were observed and quizzed over the testing of medical hosiery, gloves and various other medical devices.  The inspectors also scrutinize our Quality Management System (QMS).

The inspection went well, and once again UKAS have recommended that SMTL maintain their accreditation status.   

SMTL's latest UKAS accreditation schedule is available for download from  the UKAS website.

NWSSP and SMTL have been developing the use of Android tablets, specifically the Tesco HUDL, in association with Dr Ben Sharif, a trainee doctor in South Wales, as data collection devices for clinicians to use when undertaking product assessments, either as parts of formal Human Factors Usability testing or in their clinical practice. In particular, we have been using the Open Data Kit (a free and open-source set of tools which help organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions).

NWSSP Procurement Services (ProcS) utilised this system in the recent All Wales Wound Management tender process, providing Tissue Viability Nurses with devices to record their user evaluation results when using a range of different dressings. The system also allowed ProcS to monitor progress and coordinate the evaluations across Wales. The use of the digital forms also eliminated data entry errors, through the use of pre loaded information and, saved many weeks of data entry time when compared to entering data from paper forms.

Over 3000 completed forms were returned via the HUDL devices during the project, making the project one of the most robust in terms of data to support procurement choices and ensure the highest quality of dressings being purchased for patients in Wales.

SMTL & ProcS have subsequently also utilised the same system as part of the data collection element for a usability study on Airway Bougies as part of a Difficult Airway Society (DAS) grant funded study. The study, which involved bougies from around half a dozen manufacturers and 30 anaesthetists, made use of the HUDLs by collecting both the Clinicians and the Observer’s data during the study. This greatly improved the quality and timeliness of the data collection.


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