The NHS no longer uses post-it notes and whiteboards to arrange life-saving heart transplants for patients, it has emerged.
Instead of relying on the traditional methods, it has adopted new digital technology which can match donors and recipients in just six seconds.
The pioneering system is 300 times faster, experts claim, and has removed around 40 lengthy steps from the matching process.
Experts have hailed the ‘groundbreaking’ technology used by the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and said it will ‘ultimately save more lives’.
The world first system has already helped at least one patient get a new heart. It is expected to be rolled out across the board in the coming years.
Instead of relying on the traditional methods, the NHS has adopted new digital technology which can match donors and recipients in just six seconds
Aaron Powell, chief digital officer at NHSBT said: ‘This is groundbreaking, and I fully expect that we will roll out the new heart process to all major organs in due course.
‘Speed is essential when matching organs, so it is fantastic that we’re now able to save time and deliver better outcomes for transplant patients.’
He added: ‘The use of technology is transforming transplantation in the UK and will ultimately save more lives.’
The reduction in time, processes and resources will mean a change in how organs are donated and matched, Mr Powell said.
The success of its trial
The technology, created by T-Impact, started a trial in October last year with the NHSBT, which is responsible for all transplants in the UK.
By the time it had finished earlier this month, it showed a 68 per cent reduction in admin time, freeing up staff to find organs for more patients.
Previously, matching organs required a complex combination of manual systems, including faxes, post-it notes and whiteboards.
COULD THIS REPLACE HEART TRANSPLANTS?
Thousands of terminally ill Britons awaiting a heart transplant could be thrown a lifeline by a motorised implant plumbed into the chest.
The device effectively creates a new ‘bionic’ organ, meshing heart muscle and machine.
The groundbreaking implant, due to be offered to patients from next year, contains a tiny motor that assists the pumping action of the existing heart muscle by helping it push oxygenated blood out into the body.
The motor – the size of a lipstick tube and just two-thirds of the size of current pumps – has been developed by a UK team in Swansea led by Professor Stephen Westaby, who said: ‘There is a massive unmet need that can never be satisfied by human donor organs.’
The new automated process instead takes into thousands of possible scenarios that can affect who gets what heart, including blood types.
Better use of resources
Keith Stagner, CEO of T-Impact, said: ‘Until recently, heart donations relied on manual procedures, using whiteboards and fax machines for supplying the donor information and valuable administration time spent allocating the organ to a suitable recipient.
‘Now, the NHS is able to better use its most valuable resources – its people – in a more efficient and effective manner.
‘We are working with NHSBT we hope to help drive better outcomes for this critical service.’
What are heart transplants?
As many as 200 heart transplants are carried out on adults in the UK each year, according to official statistics.
But an estimated 1,300 men, women and children die every year waiting for a new organ, according to the British Heart Foundation.
Patients are added onto a waiting list if they are deemed for suitable for such an operation to replace their faulty heart.
Once placed in such a queue, it could take days, months or even years before a healthy donor organ is found.
One fifth of such patients never get the organ they so desperately need, while half manage to get one within three years.