Bringing services to the bedside

In this article we look at the emergence of innovative bedhead trunking solutions, which bring services to patients' bedsides

In this article we look at the emergence of innovative bedhead trunking solutions, which are providing a tidy and hygienic way to disguise the plethora of wires and cables necessary in modern hospital environments

Bed spaces in hospitals are a complicated maze of wires, cables and other high-tech equipment, which is vital to the smooth running of services, as well as to the wellbeing and recovery of patients.

Vertical solutions like SSG’s Modus offer only single-sided bed access

Without trunking solutions, however, this vital technology would be on show, with the risk of it being damaged; or, worse still, staff, visitors or patients being injured.

Trunking offers a convenient way of bringing all services – nurse call technology, audio systems, electricity, and medical gases etc – to the patient’s bedside while avoiding the need for individual wireways and pipework.

Over the past few years dedicated healthcare ranges have been launched onto the market that address some of the key issues affecting specification – primarily infection prevention.

“Infection control is now very much a given requirement in any trunking system,” says a spokeswoman for trunking solutions manufacturer, Static Systems Group (SSG).

“It is interesting to look back just a few years when we were encouraged by our product design teams to include design lines on our trunking extrusions. Nowadays it is all about smooth profiles and close-fitting plates.”

Cleaning linked with infection control and the avoidance of dust traps is leading manufacturers like SSG to explore the feasibility of trunking being flushed within walls

Cleaning made easy

Ensuring products are easy to clean is vital; particularly as bedside touch surfaces are increasingly being blamed for the spread of bacteria in healthcare settings. The avoidance of corners and other areas in which dust can collect is therefore vital. This is leading to a number of new-build projects that are exploring the feasibility of trunking being flushed within the wall.

Guidance on procurement and specification is offered in Health Technical Memorandum 08-03 Bedhead Services (HTM). This states that: “The layout or configuration of bedhead services equipment should be designed and installed to be integrated as much as possible to provide a neat and tidy arrangement that ensures that the risk of harm arising from accidental trips over loose cables and/or contact with articulated overhead equipment support arms is minimal.

“The use of purpose-designed and manufactured trunking systems and suitable articulated arms to provide co-ordinated support access to bedhead services may be considered to aid this process. Where practical, fixed bedhead equipment, accessories and services should be flush-mounted or hidden to minimise exposed parts that could increase the risk of healthcare-associated infections. Where this is uneconomical or impractical, suitably-sealed bedhead services should be contained within linear surface-mounted metal trunking systems.”

As well as infection control, high on the list of considerations for estates and facilities managers looking to install trunking systems is ease of maintenance, enabling repairs to be carried out without the need to isolate complete lengths of the system.

There are two main choices when it comes to specifying solutions – vertical and horizontal systems. Horizontal products enable easy access from both sides of the bed and can often be supplied pre-piped and pre-wired, saving time and installation costs.

Which way is up?

Vertical units are more commonly used in older buildings or where it is not possible to use a horizontal system as they do not enable access from both sides of the patient.

The SSG spokeswoman said: “We find the split between vertical and horizontal solutions tends to be about 50:50. Although there are often building constraints such as windows and structural barriers, particularly on refurbishment projects, which dictate a decision, clinical functionality is still key.

“For horizontal trunking the clinical benefits usually revolve around two sided nursing and accessibility of equipment and services. In favour of vertical solutions have been clinicians who prefer a patient side of the bed with chair, cabinet etc, and a clinical side of the bed with medical equipment.

“There is also naturally a strong preference towards what clinicians are used to and therefore a tendency to replicate either a horizontal or vertical solution based on existing facilities.”

SSG’s MODUS system has been installed in a number of medical centres including the emergency care centre at Foresterhill in Aberdeen; and North Tyneside Hospital, where a bespoke system was created allowing the existing containment, which was in good condition, to be re-used. Cableflow also offers a range of trunking solutions designed specifically for the healthcare market. These include maternity unit systems and those tailored for renal care units.

The Dr SU is an unobtrusive ergonomic design with semi-concealed services outlets to ensure maternity environments have a homely-yet-functional feel, while portraying a high level of interior design. The display of services, including calming supplementary room lighting that can be varied by the expectant mother to suit her mood at the time, provides a revolutionary concept in the provision of patient care services within these rooms.

HTM 08:03 concludes: “Bed spaces and their environment have a significant impact upon patient experience and delivery of care. With patients able to choose their provider of healthcare service and the increased complexity of clinical techniques and procedures provided at bed spaces, it is now even more important to ensure that bedhead facilities are fit-for-purpose in all respects.”

Horizontal systems are becoming increasingly popular as they enable access from both sides of the bed

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