The lung cancer team at Royal Free London has won a Health Service Journal award after developing a new lung biopsy method. 

The biopsy team, led by Dr Sam Hare, consultant radiologist and lead for chest imaging, won the acute sector innovation award, ahead of eight other nominees. 

They were recognised for developing the new ambulatory lung biopsy service, based at Barnet Hospital, which 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 team were given the award at a ceremony held at the O2 InterContinental London Hotel last night.

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 thrilled to have won this innovation award. It was a great evening and we are pleased that the hard work of the whole team has been recognised.

"We believe this new lung biopsy technique is hugely beneficial to patients and is less expensive for hospitals - but crucially can provide earlier lung cancer diagnosis. The next step is ensuring that this becomes the norm across the NHS."


Image: The lung biopsy team with the award

Notes to editors

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'.