Temporary side room concept helps NHS battle hospital bugs

Designers put finishing touches to modular isolation system in effort to stop spread of infection on wards

The Temporary Side Room provides a barrier around the patient

Infection control procedures at hospitals across the UK will receive a shot in the arm with the launch of a new solution offering a cost-effective way of isolating patients with potentially life-threatening bugs such as MRSA and C.difficile .

The Temporary Side Room (TSR) is one of the technologies to come out of a Department of Health call for action looking for new products that will help to fight infection on hospital wards.

Hospitals would like to be able to wave a technology magic wand and put a barrier around patients and that’s what the Temporary Side Room aims to do

Working in conjunction with the NHS National Innovation Centre and Renfrew Group International, the technology provides a way of turning a patient bay on a multi-bed ward into a temporary isolation facility, reducing the risk of the spread of infection as patients are moved to side rooms and making up for a huge shortfall in available single-room accommodation.

A prototype unit has already undergone a number of evaluation studies and has been subjected to external testing and continuous development. Renfrew Group International is now looking for one or more partner organisations to put the finishing touches to the final product ready to deliver to the NHS and other health and social care markets within the next 12 months.

Michael Phillips, design development director at Renfrew Group International, said there was currently an estimated shortfall of 37,000 NHS side rooms, meaning a large number of patients suffering from an infection cannot not be isolated and the impact of barrier nursing techniques is jeopardised.

It has been shown many times in scientific work that single room isolation is the most effective form of environmental infection prevention and early isolation is advised

“There is an ongoing need for more isolation facilities across the whole of the NHS given the shortage of side rooms at some times in the year,” he added. “It has been shown many times in scientific work that single room isolation is the most effective form of environmental infection prevention and early isolation is advised for C.difficile , MRSA, Norovirus, and others.

“When you have a patient on a ward with an infection, you don’t want to move them because then you run the risk of spreading the infection. Hospitals would like to be able to wave a technology magic wand and put a barrier around them and that’s what the Temporary Side Room aims to do.”

The requirements for the unit were that it must be practical, fast to erect and dismantle and easy to clean. Other features requested by clinicians and infection control leads were a non-touch doorway, handwashing facilities and a built-in water supply for a minimum of one day’s washing, with non-touch towel dispensers and a two-sided consumable locker and deliveries hatch.

What we want to do now is to simplify the design and to make it affordable so that it becomes a real solution for the NHS

As well as reminding staff and visitors to wash their hands using a traffic light system on the entry door, the unit also aims to improve the patient experience.

Phillips said: “The concept was to create an area around the patient that would stay clean, where there would be good visibility, and where the patient was also offered some degree of privacy.

“One of the drawbacks of permanent side rooms is the small windows and the long periods of time when people are unattended and when their feeling of vulnerability is increased. Part of the brief, therefore, was that the unit should be light and airy with plenty of daylight.

“We have come up with a modular build system with an aluminium frame and windows as well as a portable wash basin both inside and outside the air door. Airflow management and filtering technology means the doorway can be left open most of the time and there is a much reduced feeling of claustrophobia.

“We wanted to create a room where people will feel comfortable and which they are happy to be in.”

The design aims to provide infection control at a cost that will be within the range of NHS trusts

During trials at Nottingham University Hospital, the inclusion of wash basins and reminders helped to increase the handwashing rate from 17% to 90%. Further tests at University College Hospital London have also produced positive feedback.

“It’s almost like you are in a private sideroom,” said Phillips. “What we want to do now is to simplify the design and to make it affordable so that it becomes a real solution for the NHS.”

The new simplified concept will satisfy most of the requirements at a fraction of the cost of the previous designs.

It is expected the units will be sold via leasing packages, with erection, dismantling and consumables included in the fee.

Phillips said: “We will be meeting with manufacturers to improve the design and this may mean simplifying some of the features. We need to ensure we create the best possible environment to help stamp out infection at the same time as ensuring it is affordable.”

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