Regional NHS Point-of-Care 3D Printing Service: better and faster medical treatment tailored to patients needs

Project Details


Our ambition is to set up our own regional 3D Printing (3DP) capability which would include a 3DP service within one of our hospitals for clinical use and an off-site R&D service at UEA to facilitate innovation and technology transfer. 3D Printing (3DP) is an Additive Manufacturing method that can rapidly create customised products that were not possible using traditional manufacturing methods. In the UK healthcare sector, 3DP has been used by NHS hospitals for over 15 years and now over half-dozen NHS Trusts already have in-hospital point-of-care (POC) 3DP services that enable the delivery of significantly more personalised, faster and cheaper treatment for patients.

The earliest medical adoption of 3DP was producing real size personalised anatomical models facilitating surgical planning and generating bespoke surgical guides mainly for maxillofacial and orthopaedic patients. The models allow surgeons and other clinicians to better grasp the condition which leads to better care with less need for invasive diagnostic procedures. It also can hugely improve the communication between the clinical team and the patient. Personalised surgical guides allow more accurate and precise surgical operation and have proven to reduce theatre time and improve treatment outcome.

At the early stage of the adoption, most trusts outsourced 3D printing to specialist service providers, but lower costs have seen this capability increasingly found within the hospital, typically in maxillofacial prosthetics labs. Subsequently, POC 3DP capability within regional NHS trust hospitals has been proven to be a cost-saving and effective way of providing bespoke and timely treatment for patients. One of our associated partners of this project, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, confirmed that since they set up their POC 3DP services, the savings for the Trust is estimated to be £80K per year. Clinically, having the 3DP service within the hospital allows the surgeons to be more responsive, accurate and innovative in their surgical planning compared to outsourced services.

Currently hospitals in the Norfolk, Suffolk and North-East Essex region do not have any such POC 3DP service. For example, NNUH has been using overseas commercial 3D printing and virtual planning services, mainly American and European providers, for maxillofacial and orthopaedic treatment for over 10 years. For each patient, the outsourced 3DP service is at a minimal price of approximately £3K with an average 2-week turnover rate from order to receiving the printed parts. If an on-site 3DP service was available, this turnover time could be reduced to few days, leading to shortening of theatre and hospital bed occupation time, and more patients treated at a faster pace. Although the number of cases using the service per year fluctuates, it averages around 120 per year. This gives the sum of £360K for outsourced services, which might be operated at a significantly reduced costs through local on-site service within the NHS Trust. It has been seen in centres with in-house capability that innovative applications have been researched and developed in manner that is not possible when using commercial services. These are all additional hidden cost-savings that can be generated from having an on-site 3DP service.

Layman's description

This project aims to evaluate and plan for setting up a regional 3DP service for purely clinical treatment within one of our hospitals to serve the Norfolk, Suffolk and North-East Essex region, an off-site service that serves research, innovation, education and training in partnership with the University of East Anglia and building a close network with the other neighbouring regional Trusts, such as Cambridge, for complementary sharing and exchange of expertise and resources. The regional 3DP facility we propose is a step further than the existing centres typically found within individual hospitals in other parts of UK.

Key findings

The aim of this project is to build the foundation for setting up our regional 3DP service 1) to serve both clinical uses to shorten treatment time, improve care and patient satisfaction and generate cost-saving through on-site service; 2) to stimulate research into innovative new medical devices and treatments, speed up technology transfer and provide 3DP facilities for advanced medical education and training through the close collaboration between the trusts and UEA (off-site service).

The objectives are:

Evaluate the feasibility and cost-saving potentials for setting up our regional 3DP services with a published feasibility report as the tangible outcome (stage 1, month 1-4)

Scope the financial, human resources and facility requirements for setting up on-site 3DP service within one of regional hospitals. Monthly project board reporting will be used as a tangible measure of the progress (stage 2A, month 3-9)

Set up the off-site 3D printing service at UEA to facilitate research, innovation, technology transfer and delivery of collaborative education and training (CPD) using 3DP and associated digital technologies. An action plan with first batch of identified projects will be produced. (stage 2B: month 3-9)
Short titlePOC3DP
Effective start/end date3/01/2230/09/22