Future proofing our endoscopy services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool

A recent investment in some new state of the art machinery at the endoscope decontamination unit within the endoscopy suite at the University Hospital of Hartlepool has meant more scopes can be processed per hour, increasing productivity, reliability and traceability and ultimately allowing more patients to be seen per clinic.

If you have ever had to visit an endoscopy department for a procedure, understandably you probably never stopped to think about the equipment used and the work that takes place in the background to make sure everything is clean and safe to use.

The process for cleaning and disinfecting the endoscopes used for these procedures is actually quite a thorough one and the sterile services team at NTH Solutions, the Trusts subsidiary and provider of support services work very hard in the background ensuring that it all runs smoothly.

Once a procedure is complete, the endoscope; a long, thin, flexible tube that has a light and camera at one end, is passed through a hatch to the sterile services team who then run through a number of checks, pre-cleaning and leak testing technique’s before the scope is put into an AER (automated endoscope reprocessor) for a high disinfectant clean cycle. The Cantel AER machine guarantees security, traceability and increased productivity.

The scopes are very delicate and valuable pieces of equipment which is why at each step of the process they are scanned for traceability. Not only does this allow the scopes to be tracked at each step of the cycle, it also prints out a receipt showing it has undergone all the relevant checks and cleaning steps which is then kept with the patients records.

After the sterile services assistant has scanned to say they have received the scope, they then manually clean and rinse the scope using specialist equipment flushing water through to ensure there is no damage to the scope and there are no blockages. Once this is done the scope can be scanned and put into the AER which has a 20 minute cycle time, after which it would need to be used within a three hour window.

The department has recently had three new Cantel AER units installed which means the unit can process 9 scopes per hour in total, 72 per day. With the current average clinic lists the team usually use around 33 scopes per day meaning there is ‘scope’ to expand and offer the service to other local healthcare providers.

Another new piece of equipment within the unit is two Cantel endoscope storage cabinets which are effectively a special drying unit, which once a scope is placed inside can then be used within seven days allowing more flexibility and preparation over weekends and bank holidays. The team also have a special Cantel SureStore unit which can vacuum bag the scopes allowing them to be stored and used within 100 days, these are often placed on emergency trolleys which are not used as frequently.

The addition of the three new AER machines and the drying cabinets have meant our service is future proofed, what’s more it  can be extended to more local healthcare providers too, meaning that more patients can be seen not just within our own Trust but across the whole region.   The endoscopy staff have worked closely with the sterile services team to learn how to use the new equipment and remove the scopes from the drying cabinets.

During the installation of the new equipment the department remained open, scopes were processed at the North Tees site and transported over to Hartlepool meaning there was no cancelled clinics and no disruption to patient care, which is our top priority.

Derek Watson, Head of Decontamination Services

It’s fantastic to see such an important service being improved further at our Hartlepool site. We are future proofing our endoscopy services for the organisation, ensuring patients across the Tees Valley get the very best care.

Deepak Dwarakanath, Medical Director at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

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