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Imperial College London : 30 June, 2009  (Special Report)
FOCUS ZONE REPORT Imagine a hospital with an inflatable operating theatre, a robot that helps doctors perform complex surgery and a device that can be used to take out your gallbladder through your belly button.
These concepts might sound futuristic but all of these innovations are available for clinicians to use today.

Researchers from the Department of Biosurgery and Surgical Technology at Imperial College London and clinicians from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust displayed these and other state-of-the-art innovations at the recent national NHS Innovation Expo which took place on 18 and 19 June 2009. The Imperial team showcased technologies that have been developed at the College and that are now being used in clinical practice and education by the Trust and elsewhere in the NHS.

The Expo was the first of its kind and the biggest healthcare exhibition in the UK, attracting around 6,000 visitors over the two days. High-profile speakers included Professor Stephen Smith, Principal of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London and Chief Executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust; Professor Lord Ara Darzi, also from Imperial; Douglas A. Comstock from NASA, who is responsible for transferring space technology to healthcare; and Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation.

Visitors to the NHS Innovation Expo had the chance to try their hand at robotic surgery and engage in simulated procedures such as removing a gallbladder, removing Lipomas and stitching up an arm after surgery.

Dr Sonal Arora showed a computer simulator that makes the trainee surgeon feel like they are operating on a real patient and Erik Mayer became the face of a robot that can be used to make virtual ward rounds. Dr Roger Kneebone gave a tour of the inflatable operating theatre, a low-cost portable training environment for medical students that can be inflated in under three minutes. While Barry Paraskeva talked about using new instruments to perform surgery through the belly button. Finally, Dr James Kinross explained the work he’s been doing in the virtual world of Second Life, helping medics to train using virtual patients and clinics.

The driver behind all the Imperial research programmes on display at the Expo has been to improve patient care and outcomes. The innovations form part of the Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC), a unique kind of partnership between Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, formed in October 2007. The AHSC’s aim is to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible.

The NHS Innovation Expo was devised following from the NHS Next Stage Review published in 2008, “High quality care for all,” in which innovation was one of the driving principles.
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