The lung cancer team at Royal Free London has been nominated for an award by the Health Service Journal after developing a new lung biopsy method. 

The new ambulatory lung biopsy service, based at Barnet Hospital, enables the vast majority of patients to be discharged just 30 minutes after their biopsy. The method also allows biopsy patients who suffer a collapsed lung to be treated at home as out-patients. 

The biopsy team, led by Dr Sam Hare, consultant radiologist and lead for chest imaging, was nominated for the acute sector innovation award and will compete with eight other trusts. Dr Hare is required to complete a presentation and interview about the biopsy method to a judging panel made up of senior figures from the health sector. The winners of each award will be announced on 23 November.

In most hospitals throughout the NHS and the rest of the world, patients who undergo even routine lung biopsies are admitted to a hospital bed and remain in hospital for four to six hours to be monitored for lung collapse (pneumothorax). 

However, the relatively small number of Royal Free London patients who experience pneumothorax are treated with a small, compact device called the Heimlich valve chest drain (HVCD), instead of a traditional bulky chest drain. While the existing system would see those patients admitted for up to two days, the portable device allows them to leave hospital almost immediately while treating their collapsed lung safely and effectively at home.

Researchers suggest the new method, which had never been used in Europe before, could free up hundreds of hospital beds while also allowing more patients to undergo diagnostic biopsy in a much shorter space of time, leading to earlier lung cancer diagnosis. The new method also allows clinicians to biopsy patients who would usually not be eligible for the procedure due to the high risk of lung collapse. 

While most hospitals of equivalent size expect to do around 40 biopsies each year, thanks to the new method Barnet Hospital expects to have performed around 300 between April 2015 and April 2016. Currently, Barnet Hospital is the only UK hospital using the early discharge/out-patient HVCD method. However, NHS England is now looking into how it could be adopted by hospitals across the capital and the rest of the UK.

Dr Hare said: "We’re delighted to have been nominated for the HSJ innovation award. We believe this new method of delivering a lung biopsy is hugely beneficial to patients and is less expensive for hospital. The next step is ensuring that this becomes the norm across the NHS."


Image: Dr Sam Hare, consultant thoracic radiologist 

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About the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

The Royal Free began as a pioneering organisation and continues to play a leading role in the care of patients. Our mission is to provide world class expertise and local care. In the 21st century, the Royal Free London continues to lead improvements in healthcare.

The Royal Free London attracts patients from across the country and beyond to its specialist services in liver and kidney transplantation, haemophilia, renal care, HIV, infectious diseases, plastic surgery, immunology, Parkinson's disease, vascular surgery, cardiology, amyloidosis and scleroderma and we are a member of the academic health science partnership UCLPartners.

In July 2014 Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital became part of the Royal Free London. Read 'A bigger trust, a better future'.