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Summary

Faced with the concern that an increasing number of airway management devices were being introduced into clinical practice with little or no prior evidence of their clinical efficacy or safety, the Difficult Airway Society formed a working party (Airway Device Evaluation Project Team) to establish a process by which the airway management community within the profession could itself lead a process of formal device/equipment evaluation. Although there are several national and international regulations governing which products can come on to the market and be legitimately sold, there has hitherto been no formal professional guidance relating to how products should be selected (i.e. purchased). The Airway Device Evaluation Project Team’s first task was to formulate such advice, emphasising evidence-based principles. Team discussions led to a definition of the minimum level of evidence needed to make a pragmatic decision about the purchase or selection of an airway device. The Team concluded that this definition should form the basis of a professional standard, guiding those with responsibility for selecting airway devices. We describe how widespread adoption of this professional standard can act as a driver to create an infrastructure in which the required evidence can be obtained. Essential elements are that: (i) the Difficult Airway Society facilitates a coherent national network of research-active units; and (ii) individual anaesthetists in hospital trusts play a more active role in local purchasing decisions, applying the relevant evidence and communicating their purchasing decisions to the Difficult Airway Society.