Leicester Bone & Tissue Bank procures, stores and distributes bones to transplant surgeons all over the UK. Founded in 1989 it is the largest NHS hospital-based bank of its kind in the country.
As part of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, the Bank is based at Glenfield Hospital and receives donated bones from three hospitals. When released for transplant these are supplied to more than 11 satellite sites around the UK, and many other hospitals.
The Bone & Tissue Bank primarily stores and supplies femoral heads for use in hip revision surgery, as well as other bone material used in knee and spinal surgery. Bones from patients accepted as donors are morselised to form a filling material that is used to fix defects. The facility also stores heart valves for children’s cardiac surgery.
The process of collecting and storing bone material is governed by strict guidelines. To begin with, only around half of all patients who volunteer to donate are considered suitable, based on their medical history and lifestyle.
Bones are frozen at the donation site, collected by the Bank’s team, packaged in dry ice and transported to Leicester, where they are quarantined and tested for transmittable diseases and sterility. Bones are stored at -80C to prevent degradation.
The process is regulated by the Human Tissue Authority, which oversees the licensing of compliant facilities. A key requirement is that there is a constant temperature trace from the day of donation to the day of transplant surgery.
Mike Roberts, Head of Service at Leicester Bone & Tissue Bank, explained: “We have to be able to prove that bone has been stored at the right temperature at all times. I had to go around every site making sure the charts were changed every two months. Also pens would run out of ink and need to be changed regularly.”
Checkit’s Connected Automated Monitoring + is designed specifically for highly-regulated medical applications like this. The team at Leicester Bone & Tissue Bank selected the Checkit solution for its ability to provide constant, 24/7 monitoring of all freezers, while reducing the reporting burden on staff.
All freezers at the central site were fitted with sensors and wirelessly connected to make data available remotely at all times.
Mike Roberts explained: “The other solution we looked at were auto-diallers and also connecting freezers to hospital switchboards, but there was no facility for continuous readings to build a complete record of compliance.”
Following the initial installation, the system was rolled out to all of the satellite sites to provide a full view of storage conditions in every freezer.
Mike is able to access live dashboards on five different devices, so he can check the status of the freezers whenever and wherever he needs to. Additionally, the system triggers alerts via Checkit’s 24/7 support bureau whenever a significant temperature variation occurs. The bureau staff then email and call the Bone Bank team directly.
Continuous automated monitoring reassures the Bone & Tissue Bank team that critical inventory is stored at the correct temperature – and they will be immediately notified if it’s not. It also creates a digital compliance record, with all data held for up to 30 years.
It’s completely transformed things for me. Wherever I am, as long as there’s an internet connection, I can check. It means I can be aware of what’s happening over the weekend, for exampleMike Roberts
Head of Service at Leicester Bone & Tissue Bank
“It’s completely transformed things for me. Wherever I am, as long as there’s an internet connection, I can check,” said Mike Roberts. “It means I can be aware of what’s happening over the weekend. For example, storms can interrupt power supply and cause monitoring failure. I can even check the freezers overnight if I need. We can see when someone has been into a freezer because there’s a temperature spike, even if only for a minute. Where necessary, we can make contact and find out who went into the freezer.”
Another advantage of the system is that the team are alerted to any reduction in freezer performance. “This is our early warning system,” said Mike. “Our freezers are reliable and failures are extremely rare but an unexplained variation from the temperature range is our first warning. If necessary, we can get to the site quickly and rescue the bones by packaging them in dry ice and moving them to our base. In the past, I’ve had a call at 3am and been on the site by 7am.
The system has been so successful that the Leicester Bone & Tissue Bank ordered additional ambient temperature probes to monitor the storage conditions of consumables.
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