New furniture designs to help NHS stamp out infection on the wards

Following hospital trials, the Department of Health has announced the launch of four new bedside furniture designs for the NHS which have been found to help in the fight against healthcare associated infections (HCAIs).

Already trialled on wards in eight showcase hospitals across England, the equipment has received positive feedback from both healthcare staff and patients.

Developed as part of the long-running Design Bugs Out Challenge, a partnership between the Department of Health (DH) and the Design Council, the items are an easy-clean commode, a patient chair, a bedside cabinet and an over-bed table. Health Minister, Simon Burns, said he hoped the launch this week would pave the way for NHS trusts to start buying the new designs, which are made to be functional and much easier to keep clean. He added: “Cleanliness is vital in preventing HCAIs. The NHS has already made significant reductions of MRSA bloodstream infections and C.difficile, but there is still room for further progress. These four innovative and user-friendly furniture designs, now available for hospitals to buy, provide additional ways to help to reduce these infections. They will make it easier for staff to keep wards cleaner and help combat the spread of infections. This means keeping patients healthier, as well as saving the NHS money in the long term.”

The ergonomically sound, robust and sustainable designs are the first to be tested by an independent laboratory for cleanability in comparison to existing hospital furniture, as well as user-friendliness by ward staff, patients and visitors

The Design Bugs Out project brought together clinical specialists, patients and frontline hospital staff with designers and manufacturers to produce designs that do the same job as traditional models, but offer improvements at a comparable price.

A DH spokesman said: “Hospital furniture design has not been assessed for many years, or been so thoroughly evaluated. The ergonomically sound, robust and sustainable designs are the first to be tested by an independent laboratory for cleanability in comparison to existing hospital furniture, as well as user-friendliness by ward staff, patients and visitors. The four pieces proved to be easier to clean after undergoing rigorous assessments that replicated routine hospital cleaning procedures of typically contaminated hospital furniture.”

The evaluation feedback showed positive reactions from both patients and staff for all four products – with patient acceptability ratings proving high. The findings included:

  • 91% of respondents found the patient chair clean, comfortable, safe and supportive;
  • 77% thought the new bedside cabinet was sturdy and durable and looked good
  • 91% were in favour of the new design of the over-bed table
  • 90% thought the commode looked good and they liked it

Helping manufacturers work closely with designers and healthcare staff to develop these new product innovations has delivered a win-win for patients, staff and local economies

David Kester, chief executive of the Design Council, commented: “This is a great example of how design can find innovative new ways of tackling tricky problems and helping public services do better, for less. But it’s also a business success story – this project has generated valuable orders, created new markets and helped to safeguard jobs.

“Helping manufacturers work closely with designers and healthcare staff to develop these new product innovations has delivered a win-win for patients, staff and local economies.”

The new designs were tested in eight showcase hospitals across England. There were Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust, Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, and The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust

Cheryl Etches, chief nursing officer at the Wolverhampton trust, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to influence the design and manufacturing process of these commonly-used pieces of healthcare equipment. These haven't changed greatly in design for many years and, for this reason, this equipment has always been difficult to clean.

It is a business success story – this project has generated valuable orders, created new markets and helped to safeguard jobs

“Having this equipment on the wards makes the patient’s bedside environment easier to clean, which is beneficial for patients and staff.”

The evaluation report published this week is intended to assist the NHS in making informed decisions about purchasing the four products, which are all now available in the NHS Supply Chain catalogue online.

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