Prototypes of innovative new designs for existing hospital furniture and equipment, aimed at helping the fight against MRSA and other Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs), will be unveiled today by the Design Council.
The prototypes use cutting edge techniques to rethink the bedside environment, patient transport and everyday medical equipment, making them much easier to clean.
They are also designed to influence patient and staff behaviour to reduce the likelihood of exposure to HCAIs.
The prototypes include:
A "21st century commode" (portable toilet) which is easy to take apart for cleaning, and which practically eliminates the hard-to-clean gaps and joins that characterise current designs.
A redesigned porter's chair which is durable, comfortable, and cleverly uses design to make it easy to clean while reducing the number of obvious user 'touchpoints' where infection can be spread.
An 'intelligent' mattress which changes colour when it becomes compromised by body fluids.
A patient bedside system comprising bedside storage and over-bed table which eliminates hard-to-clean corners, is made of special durable, scratch-resistant materials, and is easier for patients to use unaided.
A unique new patient chair which pioneers a system of magnetised, removable cushions with easy-change laundered covers that make the chair clean, safe and comfortable.
A self-timing cannula (tube for delivering fluids to the patient) with an indicator telling staff when the intravenous line needs to be changed.
A curtain clip - handles for cubicle curtains which, through a unique design and magnetic mechanism, provide an easily sanitised 'grab-zone' and also keep the curtains securely closed.
A wipeable, polythene-covered blood-pressure cuff with magnetic closures, instead of hard-to-clean Velcro fastenings.
The Design Council was commissioned to lead the Design Bugs Out project by the Department of Health as part of its HCAI Technology Innovation Programme. The programme aims to speed up the development and adoption of new and novel technologies to help combat HCAIs, especially MRSA and C.difficile.
"MRSA and c.difficile dominate headlines and raise concerns for us all," said David Kester, Chief Executive of the Design Council. "Design Bugs Out has demonstrated that a little bit of good design can go a long way to providing simple, practical solutions based on the real needs of patients and hospital staff. While the designers and manufacturers deserve the big plaudits, the NHS also deserves a pat on the back for recognising design as a midwife for innovation.
The programme has provided a great model for procurement that genuinely taps the inventiveness and ingenuity in the UK. The results are good for the nation's health and good for the economy too, as many of these designer-manufacturer teams will be able to sell their new concepts to markets all over the world."
Through a national competition the Design Council appointed some of the UK top designers and manufacturers, renowned for design icons from Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class airline seats to Herman Miller chairs and Parker pens, to work on the furniture and porter's chair. A specialist healthcare team from the Helen Hamlyn Centre, Royal College of Art, developed the designs for everyday equipment, such as the self-timing cannula, blood pressure cuff and "intelligent" mattress.
Teams of designers and manufacturers, were asked to set out how they would tackle the design challenges, which were identified following extensive research in hospitals across the UK involving nurses, patients, cleaners, porters and other healthcare staff. A panel of the UK's most respected experts in the fields of design, healthcare, microbiology, nursing and patient care was assembled to assess which items in the hospital environment, if redesigned, could have the most potential to reduce patient's exposure to HCAIs through contact with their immediate surroundings.
During development of the designs, the winning teams had access to advice from the expert panel, which included distinguished designers Tom Dixon OBE and Richard Seymour; Professor Brian Duerden CBE, Inspector of Microbiology & Infection Control at the Department of Health; Professor Peter Borriello, one of the UK's leading microbiologists; and Susan Osborne CBE, Chief Nurse for the Eastern Strategic Health Authority.
"This is the probably the most important thing these designers will do this year - or perhaps in their entire career," said Richard Seymour, Chair of the judges and one of the UK's most respected and influential designers. "It's a unique opportunity to genuinely affect lives and to leave a lasting legacy, which will continue to help protect people's health for years to come. Britain needs more projects like this."
The working prototypes will now be taken on a national tour of seven "Showcase Hospitals" which are trialling and evaluating other new technologies as part of the HCAI Technology Innovation Programme.
"We are determined to create a pioneering NHS in which this type of innovative activity can flourish, so I am delighted that we have been able to work with the Design Council on the Design Bugs Out programme," said Health Minister Ann Keen. "Patients rightly expect hospitals to be clean, safe and comfortable. We know that if things are designed with infection prevention in mind and made from modern materials they will be easier to clean. These new designs are good news for staff and good news for patients."