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From F1 Pit Stops to Paediatric Operating Tables: A Lap of Precision and Innovation


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Sir Jackie Stewart OBE

While Formula 1 racing and paediatric heart surgery may seem unrelated, their collaboration has ignited significant advancements in the medical world.

“… the transfer from the operating theatre to the intensive care unit is one of the most difficult stages in the care of a child.”- Ian Kennedy, Bristol Enquiry, 2001

In 2001, Professor Martin Elliott from Great Ormond Street Hospital and his colleague Allan Goldman compared F1 pitstops to the process of moving infants post-surgery, driven by challenges highlighted in a report on cardiac care for children in Bristol.

Inspired by the precision of the F1 crew, they collaborated with F1 teams McLaren and Ferrari to enhance paediatric surgery outcomes. Though their initial innovative idea to unify operating tables with ICU beds faced resistance, their collaboration with F1 taught them the effectiveness of clear leadership, situational awareness, formalised protocols in teamwork and safety.

In July 2023, Professor Elliott talked about the transformation in paediatric heart surgery at the Race Against Dementia Summer School in Silverstone, which involved the gathering of the Race Against Dementia Fellows from around the world for one week to focus on developing the F1 mindset, which you can read more about here.

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If they can do it, why can’t we?

Thinking back to those days in the early 2000s, Professor Elliott mused:

“F1 teams managed to refuel that car, put all the tyres on and transfer all the relevant information in 6.8 seconds. If they can do it, why can’t we? It’s fundamentally not very different, software and hardware exchange of information and fixed tasks.”

Speaking at the Race Against Dementia Dementia Forum at Silverstone Museum, Professor Elliott drew a parallel in medicine with F1’s data-driven approach to help forecast surgery outcomes, enabling surgeons to act with more precision and speed. The rapid-fire decision-making synonymous with F1 has shaped medical teams’ ability to communicate and respond effectively during critical moments.

Taking the lead, our Race Against Dementia Fellows too are tapping into diverse sectors, including F1, to turbocharge their dementia research. For example, Dr Claire Durrant’s laboratory in Edinburgh underwent a complete re-design to optimise efficiency following Claire’s experience of a pit stop challenge.

By building bridges with unconventional partners, we are accelerating our mission to discover ground-breaking solutions and treatments for dementia.

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