From the world’s first CT scan on a patient in 1971, to the world’s first test-tube baby born in 1978, an East Lancashire Hospital worker shares how technology has revolutionised the way the trust works in the 75 years since the inception of the NHS.

Martin Cottam is East Lancashire Hospital Trust’s Clinical Engineering operations manager and Medical Device safety officer.

The main function of clinical engineering is to look after the life cycle of medical devices such as anaesthetic machines, ventilators, defibrillators, infusion devices on all the Trust’s sites - around 15,000 in total.

Martin’s career in the NHS started in 1985 as a 16-year-old apprentice electrician at the former Queen’s Park Hospital, which later led him to becoming a medical technical officer in the newly developing field of Electronics and Biomedical Engineering (EBME).

He said: “The development of technology over the years has greatly improved patient care and allows for a safer, quicker and more effective treatment and diagnosis of patients.

“One thing I can say which has changed over the decades is the technology of medical devices.

"Not just the number of devices that are used today but the science and technology that has increased exponentially through the decades.”

One example Martin gave is the infusion device - a small machine that infuses prescribed drugs or fluids into a patient.

He continued: “At the start of my career the Trust had around 12, mainly based in neonatal intensive care and maternity, and now we look after 1,400!

“In fact, one of the earliest infusion devices that I worked on was clockwork and had to be wound up mechanically before each use.”

Sharing a moment that sparked his passion to work in the medical field, Martin said: “Back in 1981 I was admitted to hospital after becoming seriously ill and saw pieces of medical equipment that looked like something out of Star Trek!

“I was given a CT scan with the only CT scanner in the North West and loving science at school I wondered what it would be like to work on this sort of technology.

"Little did I know at the time that this would shape my career years later.

“The NHS has been there over the years for my family with lifesaving treatment and care on several occasions.

“This has allowed me to have a career that I am passionate about. I have met friends and colleagues through the Trust, and now both my children have established careers within the NHS.”

The NHS has delivered huge medical advances, including the world’s first liver, heart and lung transplant in 1987, pioneering new treatments, such as bionic eyes and, in more recent times, the world’s first rapid whole genome sequencing service for seriously ill babies and children.

In 2022, robotics systems have helped to treat patients with prostate cancer and get them back to their homes in less than 24 hours after surgery.

Martin added: “As it celebrates 75 years there truly is a lot to be thankful for.”