Dr Michael Devlin asks whether the medical profession needs the Innovation Bill.

I want to discuss medical innovation. But, to begin, I'd like to take you to a couple of small islands in the South Atlantic, 8,000 miles from the UK.

It's July 1992 and I am standing on Mount Longdon in the Falkland Islands, on a bitterly cold and dismal winter day. On my six-month tour of duty, the Falklands was a very different place from what it had been during the seven-week conflict a decade earlier. But my guide on Longdon that day was a Staff Sergeant, Royal Engineers, who had been in the battle for the strategic high ground. Attached to 3 Para, his account of the realities of battle were visceral and haunting; his description of injuries to colleagues, vivid. It was harsh and medical care on the mountain was basic, with definitive treatment provided by a field hospital set up in farm buildings in Ajax Bay. I wondered at the time how anyone with significant battle injury survived.

The 'red and green life machine', as it was christened, was the field hospital at Ajax Bay commanded by the charismatic Royal Navy medical officer, Rick Jolly. His primary aim was to ensure that anyone who had survived long enough to reach them would not die of their injuries. In part, the eventual success of the treatment of casualties admitted to the field hospital was due to a simple, improvised and innovative resuscitation policy that was later described in the BMJ1. The authors noted that the standardisation of the procedure and elimination of choice for fluids and drugs 'contributed greatly to the speed of [the] treatment'.

Necessity is an obvious driver of innovation. In a conflict zone doctors have to make do with what is available, and use it wisely.

Necessity is an obvious driver of innovation. In a conflict zone doctors have to make do with what is available, and use it wisely. Britain isn't a war zone and when doctors want to innovate in hospitals and surgeries they generally do so using the rigorous safeguards and comprehensive analyses that accompany clinical research protocols. When a new drug or treatment is made available it is reassuring to know that it has been tested in a safe way, using ethical procedures and where a lot is known about its effectiveness and potential adverse effects.

Is there a need for legislation to empower doctors and others to innovate in medicine? The MDU doesn't think so. Currently the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill 2015 is making its way through Parliament. It has two aims - to create a database of innovative treatments and to provide a statutory defence of 'responsible innovation'. These aims, though well-intentioned, are unnecessary and the Bill is founded on the premise that doctors are put off innovating by the fear of litigation. We have seen no reliable evidence this is the case, and the MDU's experience is that we have never known a doctor to be sued just for innovating.